Environment first: Unique diaper-recycling by KLINGER The Netherlands
KLINGER The Netherlands helps to develop a unique diaper-recycling plant
The waste to energy plant ARN B.V. in Weurt (NL) is first in implementing a sustainable way to recycle diapers and incontinence materials. KLINGER, the top leader for sealing, fluid control and fluid monitoring systems, was involved in the project almost from day one, providing know-how and construction parts.
Do diapers and incontinence materials really present such a waste problem? Yes, but not for much longer! At least, not in the Netherlands. The Dutch waste processor ARN has now found a way to transform used diapers into a resource. When it came to its physical implementation, ARN called in the specialists of KLINGER to help with the technical challenges.
„In the past, diapers were incinerated, but now we can recycle them. Diapers are decomposed into plastic, fertilizers and green gas. And with that, we can achieve an enormous CO2 reduction.“
Rutger Jan Pessers, Director at ARN Weurt
The new method of diaper recycling yields a benefit of 964 kg CO2 eq. per ton treated diaper material compared to the conventional incineration.
For ARN this means:
A reduction of 14,460 tons of CO2 a year when the expansion is ready in 2021.
KLINGER provides expertise for pioneering invention
Even though KLINGER The Netherlands has an immense amount of experience with all sorts of industrial production, they had no reference to compare this new challenge with. "However, our engineering expertise allows us to adapt to any manufacturing process. It is just applied physics, after all. In our business, we need to be able to calculate the ideal specifications, no matter how complex the requirements are. Heat, pressure, corrosion, flow rate, type and aggressiveness of media, etc. – everything needs to be taking into account when choosing and designing the right product,” says Boudewijn Slager, Product Specialist for Fluid Control at KLINGER The Netherlands. KLINGER worked intensively with ARN’s engineering department and project management to discuss the specific process requirements, provided them with the design specifications, and also helped with providing calculations and estimates.
Finding the right valves for hot steam, high pressure and severe conditions
Diapers consist of plastic, paper and biodegradable waste, and often contain some problematic substances such as medicinal drugs. The idea was to melt the diapers using steam at 250°C, extract the plastic for recycling, and use the remaining components for biogas and fertilizer. There were many unknowns: What type of pipes would be safe for transporting the steam? Which valves would be able to withstand the extremely high pressures that were required? How could the pipes be kept free from molten and re-solidifying plastic? KLINGER The Netherlands not only provided a lot of know-how, they also supplied the suitable technical components such as various valves (control valves, ball valves, butterfly valves and specially designed lift plug valves), steam traps, gaskets and hoses.
Did you know?
Diapers, especially those used by the elderly, contain a lot of medicinal drugs, posing a danger to groundwater. The process invented by the Dutch engineering company Elsinga Beleidsplanning en Innovatie and ARN breaks these down into their individual components, so that the outputs from the plant are eventually almost free of any pharmaceuticals.
Boudewijn Slager and Klaas Doting (with the white helmets) of KLINGER The Netherlands accompanied ARN with their on-site expertise from the start. Niek Temmens (red helmet), Process Operator at ARN, operates the system.
KLINGER The Netherlands not only provided a lot of know-how, they also supplied ARN with suitable technical components such as valves, steam traps, gaskets and hoses.
This unique process is ready to be offered to the world
The process was tried out in a small pilot plant, working with 80 kilos of diapers. And, in fall 2019, the first of the three big reactors was ready. It can process 5,000 tons of diapers a year. ARN is planning to expand the plant, processing 15,000 tons a year, corresponding to 75 million diapers. ARN’s inventive diaper-recycling process has now been approved by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (https://www.rivm.nl/en) and also receives subsidies from the EU. Soon, this process will be ready to be offered to the world. "This is the first of this type of process anywhere in the world and there is already a lot of interest. If it proves successful, I am certain it will be duplicated in many places," says Klaas Doting, Sales Engineer at KLINGER The Netherlands. Elsinga is taking care of the international sales of their patented process.
„Helping our customers to improve their industrial processes is our daily work. But this job is special. Because everybody knows about diapers but very few people think about the environmental impact of their disposal. I am proud to be part of this groundbreaking project.“
Boudewijn Slager, Product Specialist for Fluid Control at KLINGER The Netherlands
How many diapers are disposed of in the Netherlands? Every year in the Netherlands, about 400,000 tons of diapers and incontinence materials are incinerated, making up for about 8 percent of household residual waste. Industrial waste from hospitals and care centers delivers around the same amount. In total, there are about 75 million items per year.
How will the diapers be collected? The separate collection of diapers will be organized throughout the country and is already in place in one region. People are able to dispose of their sanitary waste for free, thereby saving the cost of collection. Care homes and hospitals in particular can greatly reduce costs on their waste collection.
How does ARN’s recycling process work? The diapers are pumped into the reactor and melted using high pressure steam at 250°C. During the cooling process, they turn into a liquid containing plastic granules. The liquid is used to produce biogas and fertilizer and the granules are ready for further recycling.
What will the recycled plastic be used for? The main output of the diaper plant in Weurt is plastic granules that can be further processed into all sorts of products, from bottle tops and flower pots to roof tiles.
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