Adequate housing is one of the top challenges for victims of natural disasters and dirty diapers might be the answer.
Immediately after the earthquake in Turkey and Syria this year, BTJ worked to provide housing for those who were displaced. It seems there might be a cheap and easy solution found in disposable diapers; a common waste product taking up more space in landfills than almost any other item.
As strange as it might sound, dirty diapers can be used to build houses by displacing sand, concrete mix, and mortar. This could be a major game changer in poor countries where sustainable housing is in shortage. One baby can use four or five diapers per day. In the United States alone, dirty diapers account for more than 3.3 million tons of waste, but a PhD student in architectural engineering at the University of Kitakyushu, Japan, might have found a use for all that waste.
To put her idea to the test, Siswanti Zuraida, lead author of the research and a PhD student at the University of Kitakyushu, collected her own daughter’s dirty diapers, washed them, and hung them up to dry for 28 days. Then she enlisted her brother’s help to shred the diapers by hand using scissors. The diapers were then mixed with gravel, water, sand and cement to create concrete and mortar. After finding the correct mixture, they built a house in Indonesia according to building codes.
For a single-story house, dirty diapers displaced up to 27 percent of the sand and concrete needed in a home and for the mortar between concrete bricks, diapers displaced up to 40 percent.
Siswanti discovered, because of the absorbent nature of diapers, the concrete could be less prone to cracking.
It is too early to tell, but this new discovery could be a key component for future solutions to both reducing waste and meeting a need for affordable housing.
Picture Credit: Muhammad Arief Irfan