Flush with success
Disposable nappies that can be safely flushed down the loo could soon become a reality, with the discovery of a water-absorbing resin.
Japanese textiles firm Unitika says the substance is fully biodegradable, meaning items can be buried, burned or dissolved by micro-organisms in water treatment plants.
The main ingredient in the resin is guar gum, a substance produced from a bean grown in India and Pakistan. This is combined with bio-degradable textiles to form items that completely break down into water and carbon dioxide without releasing toxic substances.
However, the firm say that there is no danger of the nappies disintegrating while in use unless the baby is exposed to a combination of high temperature and humidity of around the levels that occur in a sauna.
Conventional disposables cause significant environmental problems as they contain chemicals such as sodium polyacrylate that doesn't break down. They are also made from plastics such as polypropylene and polyethylene, which take many years to rot.