Degradation of biodegradable diapers as an element circular economy in waste containing various plastics

Elżbieta Czarnecka, Maciej Walczak, Gopalakrishnan Kumar, Grzegorz Piechota, Jacek Nowaczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disposable diapers are currently used in large quantities and due to their disposable nature; they are thrown away in the garbage after a single use. This inevitably leads to a build-up of a serious environmental problem. The search for solutions to this problem includes the introduction of biodegradable diapers. In our investigation, we focused on examining the degradability of existing diapers of this type on the market. The main pillar of the research was to track the progress of hydrolytic degradation and to try to determine the structural changes that occur in the materials of which this type of diaper is made. The chemical composition of diapers’ parts was studied by means of IR spectroscopy. The study shows that parts of diapers manufactured from cellulose and its derivatives demonstrate moderate degradability in an aqueous environment. Most important degradation products identified by FTIR after 140 days are oxidized intermediates containing carbonyl moiety. Regarding the weight loss, it was found that only starch based components exhibit reasonably fast decay, nearly disappearing after 60 days. Although the parts made of polyolefins showed signs of slight oxidative degradation, they practically did not lose weight over a monitored period of time. The biodegradation tests on diaper samples showed quite modest biodegradability. Additionally, the absorbent core showed inhibition of the biological activity of the compost. The results showed that although biodegradable disposable diapers are a solution going in the right direction, they are currently far from meeting environmental safety expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134426
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the financial support from The Ministry of Education and Science funded this research, within the Implementation Ph.D. study of Elżbieta Czarnecka, Statutory funds of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland, and budget of Plastica Sp. z o.o in Frydrychowo, Poland.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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