In the U.S., housing inventory is low. In underdeveloped countries, it can be prohibitively expensive to build. In all cases, green and sustainable methods are useful. Which is why researchers in Japan have pursued a novel way of crafting a low-cost home: recycled diapers.
According to a recent paper published in Scientific Reports, this methodology is being explored by civil engineer Siswanti Zuraida at the University of Kitakyushu. Zuraida’s approach involves reducing the amount of sand used in concrete by replacing it with shredded diapers, which are typically made with wood, cotton, and polymers.
After testing various mixtures, Zuraida found that between nine percent and 40 percent of the sand can be swapped for the diapers without compromising the strength of the concrete. Better, it also keeps the disposable diapers out of landfills.
Zuraida—who initially sourced some of the dirty swaddles from her own baby—found that more diapers could be used in non-load-bearing architectural components rather than structural ones. A wall, for example, could use more diapers, while a support beam would use less.
Working with a team, Zuraida built a small prototype home of just 387 square feet. In all, roughly eight percent of the sand was replaced with repurposed poop catchers.
The proof of concept is sound, but is it practical? Most countries don’t have a system for separating diapers from other waste. But if one could be implemented, the diapers might provide one solution for reducing cost and greenhouse emissions. And yes, the diapers would be cleaned first.