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Wales paves road to zero waste with recycled nappies in A487 resurface

Cymru ar ei ffordd at fod yn ddiwastraff trwy ddefnyddio cewynnau ar gyfer yr A487

As part of Wales’ bid to become a zero waste nation by 2050, the Welsh Government has trialled using recycled nappies to resurface a stretch of road on the A487 between Cardigan and Aberystwyth.

Fibres from 4.3 tonnes of used nappies have replaced materials used to make asphalt that are normally shipped in from Europe and beyond. The other ingredient- aggregate- was sourced within a 45 mile radius, sustaining local jobs and cutting carbon by shortening the supply chain.

Nappies and other absorbent hygiene products are currently or have plans to be collected in 15 out of 22 local authorities in Wales. Still, an estimated 143 million nappies are thrown away in Wales each year.

Considered a single-use plastic, they could take hundreds of years to degrade in landfill. Though the plastic lining can be recycled easily, the fibres in the absorbing layer have previously proven a challenge.

To address this, the Welsh Government through its SMART innovation programme funded Ammanford-based NappiCycle to clean used nappies and separate the plastic and cellulose fibres for re-use. It is working with Welsh business to explore other market uses for the fibres.

The road is just one of many innovations the Welsh Government is spearheading in its aim to move to a circular economy- where waste is turned into a resource and kept in use for as long as possible.

If the trial – which will undergo rigorous environmental assessments to scrutinise breakdown of the material over time- proves successful, the initiative could be scaled up - reducing waste, tackling climate change and creating green jobs in the process. 

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said:

“The road to zero waste requires innovation, collaboration and bold action. We have elevated ourselves from one of the world’s worst recyclers to one of the best since devolution began. I have no doubt that with a Team Wales effort we can achieve world number one recycler, whilst ensuring no more rubbish is sent to landfill after 2025 and none sent to energy incinerators after 2050.”

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said:

“The Welsh Government is committed to supporting our businesses to design and develop innovative solutions to global problems, which helps boost our economy and protect our society.

“I’m delighted our Innovation Team have been able to play a pioneering role in taking this project forward. Once again, Wales is demonstrating it is a leading player in applying R&D to Circular Economy solutions.”

Wales is ranked first in the UK, second in Europe and third in the world for household waste recycling. Wales remains the only country in the world to enshrine a Well-Being of Future Generations Act in law, meaning all policy decisions made today must consider the impact on the generations of tomorrow.


Notes to editors

  • Wales and local-based partners involved in the trial include NappiCycles, traffic management company Amberon, PUMA, Celtest, Ceridigion County Council, and asphalt contractor GD Harries.
  • Aggregate used to make the asphalt was sourced from Llanybydder (10 miles from site) & Bolton Hill (45 miles from site). 
  • Absorbent hygiene products (AHP) are seen as a problematic waste stream due to their nature, odour and volume.
  • Compositional analysis carried out in 2015/16, confirmed AHP waste contributed to approximately 3% of the total municipal solid waste across Wales and contributed to 9% of the household residual waste stream. This equates to circa 41,200 tonnes of AHP in the Local Authority municipal waste across Wales.
  • The Welsh Government set statutory recycling targets for Local Authorities – this has increased household recycling from 5.2% (1998-99) to globally leading figures of 60.7% (2018-19). Municipal waste recycling rates have also risen from 4.8% to 65.4% in 2020-21Welsh Government has provided over £1 billion since 2000 to help Local Authorities invest in recycling collection services.
  • 99% of households now have a food waste collection service after the Welsh Government introduced specific funding to Local Authorities. Our food waste is then processed to create energy to power homes.
  • Wales is the only country in the world to embed a Well-Being of Future Generations Act in Law, which means that any policy decisions made today must consider the impact on the generations of tomorrow.
  • Wales’ road network consists of 1700 km strategic road network that requires constant maintenance. This initiative is one of a number in train to minimise the carbon footprint of the network and to maximise the circular economy.
  • Latest annual waste figures are here:
  • Real nappies | WRAP
  • Procedure and advice guidance (PAG) 112/ 20: stone mastic asphalt specification | GOV.WALES