Creating compostable diapers using a new biopolymer

Expendable nappies are a real environmentalproblem. Diapers alone account for 2.5% of the municipalsolid garbage participating U.S. landfills every year. Thats almost 3.5 million tons, or about2 0 billion napkins. There are more environmentally friendly alternativesout there, but they struggle to match the absorbency, low cost and convenience of conventionaldisposables. Ecovia Renewables, a startup constituted out ofa University of Michigan chemical engineering laboratory, has pioneered a brand-new process that couldfinally realise compostable nappies a competitive option. >> Minty: I’m actually a brand-new mother. I “ve had my” first lad about 7 weeks ago. And I went to a number of parenting categorizes, and special topics of expendable napkins was always brought up .>> Narrator: The biggest challenge in producing a competitive compostable nappy is in developing the diapers core, which needs to be super absorbent, forobvious rationales, it needs to maintain that absorbency under pressure, and it needs tobiodegrade. Normal expendables use sodium polyacrylate, a lowcost polymer that can absorb 100 to 1000 hours its weight in water, but is notbiodegradable. The polymer developed at Ecovia, announced polyglutamicacid, is completely biodegradable and has a similar absorbency, but until very recently, has been very costly to produce .>> Lin: People have been using microbes to makepolyglutamic battery-acid for some time, and they know this is a molecule that is very interesting. But then, it’s always exerting an expensive substrate. >> Minty: And so what we’ve done at the Universityof Michigan and at Ecovia is that we’ve reinvented this entire process. >> Narrator: It starts with glycerol, the waste byproductof biofuel, which is put into a fermenting broth, where a community of microbes worksto alter it into the biopolymer. >> Minty: And then the next step is we have to purifythis polymer out of the fermentation broth. So we’ve developed some engineerings at Ecoviawhere we can efficiently separate this biopolymer from the cadres and all of the pollutants thatare in that fermentation broth. >> Narrator: This outcomes in a linear, watersoluble formof the polymer, which can then be modified to create the super absorbent use for thecompostable diaper core. >> Minty: Diapers are what we really envisionas being the terminal, biggest affect busines for this material .>> Narrator: Ecovias next stair is receive the rightpartner in order to begin prototyping diaper commodities, and in the meantime, they have beenmarketing their biopolymer textiles for smaller cosmetic and agricultural employments inorder to prove that these new technologies manipulates. >> Lin: Being able to see the technology reallyjust starting from the bench and now having a possible to make any impact is very veryencouraging to us. >> Minty: We are taking this very fundamental researchwe were doing in the lab. and then turning that into a process for making actual tangibleproducts that are things that millions of people will be terminated working daily. And having a good, social and environmentalimpact in that process ..