The Solution to Disposable Diaper Waste Is Apparently Mushrooms

Illustration for article titled The Solution to Disposable Diaper Waste Is Apparently Mushrooms

Disposable diapers are made to be super-absorbend and super-durable — all the better for handling the all the waste produced by a human baby. All the worse for the environment because the diapers last hundreds of years in landfills. But a new project cut waste by using the diapers to grow mushrooms.


Project leader Rosa María Espinosa Valdemar, a researcher at the Autonomous Metropolitan University, Azcapotzalco described the inspiration for the project:

The idea came after considering that mushrooms feed on cellulose, material present in diapers, but they also possess non-biodegradable synthetic elements such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and superabsorbent gel (sodium polyacrylate) which collects fluids.


To test the idea, researchers sterilized diapers containing liquid waste with an autoclave and added lingrin (needed for the growth of fungi). Thus resulted in a substrate suitable for fungi. Then fungus spores, grown on wheat or sorghum, was spread on the substrate, and the whole mixture was stored in a dark, temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. Then exposed to light, the resulting mushroom growth eliminated up to 80% of the diaper waste's volume and weight.

The researchers were even able to try out their diaper mushrooms. Said Valdemar Espinosa:

"We were sure that did not contain contaminants or infectious organisms, and we performed an analysis and found that the contents of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are the same as that of commercial yeast. It shouldn't have to be different, mainly because diapers are sterilized ", he says.

It is important to note that these experiments were carried out on a small scale, and cultivated mushrooms have never left the lab so they are not for sale. "The project is not intended to produce mushrooms targeted for human consumption, since the main objective is to get rid of diapers to avoid damaging the environment more. However, the mushrooms could be used as food supplement for cattle, the gel can be used to increase moisture retention in some crops and the plastic can be sent to recycling", says the scientist.

[via Live Science]

Top image: Investigación y Desarrollo


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I hope they figure something out because diapers are so wasteful yet so convenient.

We use cloth diapers now, mainly because my wife is a better person than I am and spearheads the chore, and I have to say they aren't nearly as convenient as disposable. Washing aside, they don't wick moisture away from the baby which means she gets finicky when her diaper is wet. With disposables she only got grumpy when she had poop in the trunk.

Were it just up to me, I'd probably opt for the environment destroying disposables because, like most norms, I tend to be more lazy than good. It's sad to admit, especially sitting next to my baby girl, knowing full well that she inherits that much more waste every time I opt for the easy way out. I could and do rationalize, say I don't have enough time. But the fact of the matter is I find time to read sites like this and watch videos. I have a lot more time for chores, I just don't want to do them.

I'm glad these guys are finding a solutions for the consequences of my desire to be more lazy than good. While I aim to be better, and am sometimes (begrudgingly) thanks to my better half, I think the best solution for our world is to find a way to make the lazy choice the good choice.