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    5. Recycled used diapers sold in Japan

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    Recycled used diapers sold in Japan

    Shoppers browse baby diapers at a store in Kyoto, but demand for diapers is increasingly driven by Japan's aging population. Photo: KIYOSHI OTA /BLOOMBERG

    The world's first recycled diapers have gone on sale in Japan as the country tries to balance the needs of a rapidly aging population and reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills.

    Unicharm Corp released its new horizontally recycled diapers in shopping malls in Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan.

    Items that are recycled horizontally are turned back into the same product they were originally, although this concept is unusual in Japan. personal care sector.

    Previously soiled diapers come in a variety of sizes for both babies and adults, although the demographic crisis looming over Japan means that demand for adult diapers is already higher than for newborn diapers .

    A pack of 42 baby diapers is expensive. 1,078 yen (£5.63), slightly more expensive than regular disposable versions.

    Tokyo-based Unicharm said it has developed a new process that uses ozone to sterilize, bleach and remove odors from used diaper material before it is turned into reusable pulp indistinguishable from new materials.

    There is pressure in Japan to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, and officials estimate that in some cities diapers account for 20 percent of trash. Photo: ANTON PETRUS/MOMENT RF

    The company's new product emerged in 2016, when it signed an agreement with two local governments in Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan, which did not have an incinerator for household waste and had filled a landfill intended to meet waste needs of the local population. three decades in just eight years.

    Officials estimate that 20 percent of the trash in the cities of Shibushi and Osaka consists of disposable diapers, a figure predicted to increase as the local population ages.

    The Osaka Recycling Center has been selected as the site for the demonstration facility where diapers will be collected before the initial wash, and then the materials will be separated, shredded and transferred to the nearby Unicharm plant for purification and ozone processing.

    < p>Initially produced in limited quantities in 2022, they were tested in hospitals and nursing homes in Kagoshima before becoming available to the general public.

    The company insists the technology makes the new products hygienic and resistant to bacteria. in recycled items is “below detectable limits.”

    Felt comfortable

    Unicharm said, “Customers who have used these products said they are comfortable and no different from regular [diapers].”“We would like to move from a resource-intensive standard to a cyclical one,” Tsutomu Kido, the company's chief executive, told Kyodo News.

    “We have received approval from hygiene experts,” he added.

    Social media users largely ignored the fact that the diapers were recycled, focusing instead on the price.

    “It's actually quite expensive,” said one post on news site Yahoo Japan. “As prices go up, I focus on cost-effectiveness when I buy diapers.”

    However, others disagreed, with one post saying: “It's amazing how nappies that have been used once can be recycled and used again. I would buy them even if they cost a little more, for the sake of my future children and our society.”

    Japan's Environment Ministry estimates that by 2030, nearly 2.4 million tons of disposable diapers will end up in the country's landfills annually, up 30 percent from 2015. At the same time, the domestic market for baby diapers is shrinking as the birth rate declines. The adult diaper market is expected to grow from 6.9 billion units in 2015 to 9.6 billion in 2030.

    Plunging birth rate

    The country's demographic changes have already convinced one of Japan's largest disposable diaper makers stop production of baby lines and focus entirely on the senior market. Oji Nepia, a subsidiary of paper products giant Oji Holdings, announced last month that the plummeting birth rate had made baby products economically unviable.

    Only 758,631 children were born in Japan in 2023, a record low and a shock to a government that was already struggling to find ways to stem population decline. Japan also saw more than 1.59 million deaths last year. In 2022, children under age 15 made up less than 12 percent of the total population, and nearly 30 percent were age 65 or older.

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