Concrete diaper house | Photo credit – Interesting Engineering

As the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, the demand for housing is becoming an increasingly pressing matter. By 2045, the global urban population is expected to surge by 1.5 times, reaching 6 billion people.

The latest statistics, shared by the IMF blog, paint a grim picture, as this rapid urbanization puts immense pressure on cities and metropolitan areas to provide the necessary infrastructure and affordable housing for their expanding populations.

However, governments around the world might find a solution at hand for two problems currently plaguing their metropolises, that is affordable housing and the menace of burgeoning waste of disposable diapers.

Photo credit | Getty Images

According to a newly published paper in the journal Nature by a group of researchers at the University of Kitakyushu in Japan, the used and filthy disposable diapers can be turned into concrete for building affordable homes for low- and middle-income earners.

Diaper Infused Concrete for Low-cost Housing

The researchers detailed in the paper published last Thursday that diapers can be used to replace sand in concrete and mortar, one of the world’s most popular building materials.

If this idea can be explored extensively, it could bring down the amount of sand needed to bring up a small single-story house to just 8% of the current quantity.

Interestingly, the researchers claim that using processed diapers to replace a significant amount of sand in concrete does not compromise the structural integrity of the building.

The solution the researchers are flaunting goes beyond meeting the demand for affordable and sustainable low-cost housing globally, if applied, it would drastically reduce the amount of disposable diaper waste that ends up in landfill sites.

“[By] considering the environmental value of waste recycling, the material gives benefit to be developed on a large scale and by involving society and other stakeholders in collecting and managing the waste of disposable diapers,” the authors of the paper wrote.

According to a report by EPA, disposable diapers contribute millions of tons of waste to landfills annually and are prone to introducing pathogens into the environment due to the contents of the solid waste they contain.

Other studies as cited by Cision, show that disposable diapers in landfills may take up to five centuries to degrade and in the process release vast amounts of methane, not to mention the volatile chemicals added to the production process which end up in the environment.

Photo credit |

Furthermore, at least 200,000 trees are cut every year in the United States alone to provide raw materials used in the production of disposable diapers.

“The negative impact of disposable diapers on the environment is irrefutable,” Gioula Chelten, the founder of, an online platform for parents who prefer sustainable baby products said.

How Does Disposable Diaper Concrete Work?

The researchers explain that instead of using the typical fine aggregates of concrete and mortar, diapers can be added to the mix.

Structural components such as load-bearing walls and public road pavement, can only withstand up to 10% of added diaper material, they highlighted in the paper.

However, nonstructural elements like non-load-bearing partitions and low-impact floor pavers can accommodate up to 40% diaper material in their composition.

At the moment, only developed countries have the infrastructure to recycle soiled diapers. In the study, diapers were cleaned, dried, and disinfected using sodium chloride, likely due to their effectiveness against most gut bacteria.

Tests measuring biological oxygen demand showed that concrete made with used diapers had comparable microbial levels to concrete made with clean diapers. Hence, they concluded that used and sanitized diapers were the most viable alternative as opposed to the popular incineration process.

Following the sanitization process, the diapers are shredded and combined in the required proportions based on the structural and nonstructural elements of the building with components like cement, sand, gravel, and water.

The study left the diaper-infused concrete to cure for 28 days before testing the bricks for their structural strength and durability, and they confirmed that they complied with the Indonesian construction guidelines and standards for houses with a floor area of approximately 85 square feet.

Replacing most of the sand used to build sustainable housing for low-income earners would also reduce the immense pressure on the vital resource that is the second most used in the world behind water.

Sand is essential for preventing floods and storms that could wreck the lives of communities near large water bodies like seas and lakes.

While more studies must be conducted on the large-scale use of treated used disposable diapers in concrete, this research is an eye-opener for governments around the world grappling with the rising demand for affordable housing.

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