Millions of nappies, feminine hygiene products, incontinence pads and other hygiene waste currently sent to landfill by commercial organisations and public bodies could now be turned into clean energy thanks to a new mechanical process called Lifecycle unveiled today. Hygiene product waste is one of the largest contributors to UK landfill.

According to hygiene waste disposal company PHS Group, who have spent millions of pounds developing the new process, the breakthrough ends a decade-long pursuit to efficiently recycle hygiene waste, which can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Businesses that send hygiene waste products to landfill face increasingly high costs for doing so because of rising landfill tax and processing costs associated with hitting UK environmental targets and dwindling landfill capacity.

The Lifecycle process combines mechanical separation with chemical treatment and converts highly absorbent hygiene products into Refused Derived Fuel (RDF), which is then supplied to the alternative energy market both in the UK and in Europe. RDF is typically burned in biomass plants to produce electricity and hot water either for municipal power systems, the National Grid or individual companies.

Justin Tydeman, Chief Executive of PHS Group, said: “Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue. We have spent almost a decade refining the LifeCycle process and we now have a viable option for diverting hygiene waste products away from landfill.

“By converting hygiene waste products into RDF instead of sending them to landfill, we can help the sector to achieve environmental targets and reduce waste management costs. Our goal is zero to landfill for our customers’ hygiene waste products by the end of 2017.”

Currently, hygiene product waste is either incinerated or sent to landfill. Neither option is ideal. Burning wet waste is expensive due to the energy required to heat and then burn it. Sending hygiene waste products to landfill is harmful to the environment because of the time it takes for the waste to decompose. Organisations sending hygiene waste products to landfill also face increasingly high costs because of the need to hit UK environmental targets to tackle landfill capacity issues.

A scheme for domestic hygiene waste would require separate collection.