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Firm to collect used diapers in west Japan city to analyze consumers' recycling awareness

This photo shows a P&G Japan disposable diaper collection box at Aeon's Kobe-Kita branch in Kobe's Kita Ward on April 6, 2021. (Mainichi/Chikako Kida)

KOBE -- A manufacturer will launch a project to collect used disposable diapers as soon as this month here to analyze consumers' awareness and behavior when sorting trash for collection to reduce the burden on the environment.

    Consumer goods giant P&G Japan Ltd., headquartered in Kobe, will install special collection boxes at eight locations including retailers and day care facilities until September.

    People can open the collection boxes by using a special app to discard used diapers in plastic bags. The diapers are then sprayed with deodorant and insect repellants inside. Through the app, the company checks the frequency and amount of diapers that each person disposes of. The collected items will then be incinerated.

    P&G has been selling its "Pampers" brand disposable diapers for babies and toddlers in Japan since 1977, sparking the popularization of such items in the country where cloth diapers had previously been mainly used. Due to the aging of the population in Japan, demand for disposable diapers for adults has been on the rise in recent years, and the market is expected to further expand.

    P&G has started recycling disposable diapers in Europe using an Italian company's technology, and producing items such as bottle caps and fabrics from the material. Its Japan arm said that it intends to research consumers' behavioral tendencies and other information through the project in Kobe to deploy the business in Japan.

    According to the Ministry of the Environment, 23.5 billion disposable diapers were domestically produced in 2018. Since 2010, the number of diapers made for infants and toddlers has increased 1.7 times, and ones for adults grew 1.5 times. The weight of such items rises by about four times after use, and an estimated more than 2 million metric tons of disposable diapers are incinerated as general waste annually in Japan.

    The recycling of used disposable diapers has become a global issue in the move toward a more recycle-based society. In Japan, sanitary products giant Unicharm Corp. has been conducting an experiment to recycle diapers into pulp in Shibushi, Kagoshima Prefecture, and other places since 2016.

    P&G Japan's collection boxes will be installed at retail giant Aeon's Jamesyama branch in Kobe's Tarumi Ward and Kobe-Kita branch in Kita Ward, as well as Toys"R"Us' Kobe Harborland branch in Chuo Ward, and at five day cares in Tarumi, Nishi and Kita wards. Disposable diapers for both infants and adults can be discarded at the sites, regardless of the brand.

    (Japanese original by Chikako Kida, Kobe Bureau)

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