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Up to 8% of the sand in concrete and mortar used to make a single-story house could be replaced with shredded used disposable diapers without significantly diminishing their strength, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. The authors suggest that disposable diaper waste could be used as a construction material for low-cost housing in low- and middle-income countries.
Typically, wood pulp, cotton, viscose rayon, and plastics like polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene are used to make disposable diapers. Most of them are burned or disposed of in landfills.
In order to produce concrete and mortar samples, Siswanti Zuraida and colleagues mixed cement, sand, gravel, and water with disposable diaper waste that had been washed, dried, and shredded. After that, the samples were cured for 28 days. The amount of pressure that the six samples, each containing varying amounts of diaper waste, could withstand before breaking was examined by the authors.
Subsequently, they computed the highest percentage of sand that could be substituted with disposable diapers among other building materials required to erect a 36-square-meter house that meets Indonesian building regulations.
The waste from disposable diapers, according to the authors, might substitute up to 10% of the sand required in concrete, which is used to build the columns and beams of a three-story house. In a single-story home, this percentage rose to 27% of the sand required for concrete beams and columns. Disposable diapers can replace up to 40% of the sand required for partition wall mortar, whereas only 9% is needed for floor and garden paving mortar. When all of the concrete and mortar building components needed to construct a 36 square meter single-story home are combined, up to 8% of the sand—or 1.7 cubic meters of trash—can be substituted with used diaper waste.
The authors point out that in order to apply their findings more broadly, government and waste treatment parties would need to be included in the process of creating procedures for the extensive collecting, cleaning, and shredding of diaper waste. Furthermore, diaper waste would require a modification to building standards in order to be used as a building material.