Recycle Diapers into Great Compost

The guest author of this feature is Honey Ramirez, Administrative Assistant at Mobiair Pte Ltd.

So you’ve got a kid in diapers, you decided to go the disposable route, and you wonder to yourself, “can I be a bit greener, and get something useful out of the bargain as well?”

Composting your kid’s diapers is easy, fast, it doesn’t smell when done correctly, and it makes great compost due to the filling of the diaper!

Diapers contain the same magic water-retaining polyacrylate crystals that make regular potting soil into that really expensive potting soil… polyacrylate crystals sell at the garden centre for about USD 10 – USD 20 per pound! The remaining filling is cellulose fibre, which is basically ground up trees that you would have happily composted anyway. And of course, there’s extra nitrogen, courtesy of your kid.

Other good reasons for doing this:

– Reduces the volume of your trash (if you pay by the size of your trash can, you can reduce the volume of the diapers by about half)

– Reduce space used in the landfill

– Reduce the energy used to haul those diapers to the landfill

– It really does make good compost

Step 1: What we are going to do

Firstly, you can’t compost the whole diaper. Only the filling is compostable – the rest is not biodegradable. If you try to compost the whole diaper you’ll end up with a dirty sack of mush. So we’re going to compost the filling and throw away the outer layers.

I only compost wet diapers. The poopy ones should just be disposed of the way you dispose of them now.

For safety, I wouldn’t use the diaper compost on food crops. If you know what you’re doing it is possible to compost things in a way that destroys harmful bacteria, but it’s beyond the scope of this instructable. So if you’re composting diapers, the compost becomes for non-food crops only, OK? Your flowers, trees and lawn will love you, and you can find some other compost to use for your vegetables and fruits.

Do this outside, over your compost heap. If you do it inside you’ll get bits of wet diaper stuff everywhere.

I’m assuming you already have a compost pile. Mine is composed of about 50% other organic matter (kitchen scraps, leaves, other materials recycled from the garden) and 50% diaper filling right now. I’m not sure if you could do this with 100 % diaper filling.

Wear gloves. A dustmask would not be a bad idea either, the insides of the diaper seem to be made of pretty find material.

I usually save up 2-3 days of wet diapers and compost them all at once.


Step 2: Tear the Diaper

Remember, do this outside, over your compost heap.

Use one hand to hold the diaper from the end that was the front side of the diaper when it was on your child (the back side has tough elastic that is difficult to dear through).

Start at a spot about a third of the way along the filling and use your other hand to tear downwards. It should tear the whole way down with no trouble as shown in the picture. The wet contents will fall right out onto your compost heap. You can scoop out the remaining dry bits from the corners with your fingers and add to the compost heap.

Throw the remaining parts of the diaper away.

Like I said, I usually do two or three days’ worth of diapers at once.

Step 3: Spread the diaper contents out

Don’t heap them all up, use a shovel to spread the stuff out and lightly mix with the top layer of compost.

Remember this stuff is really absorbent – if your compost pile is dry, you can mix the diaper stuff into the top layer of compost with a quick spray of the hose (careful not to splash it everywhere)

Step 4: Bury It

This step is important.

Cover the diaper material with about a half inch of compost or soil, preferably using some compost from the bottom of the pile, or some soil if you don’t have much compost yet. This will stop it from smelling – there is no detectable smell from my compost pile even standing right next to it. I also don’t have any problem with flying insects either.

That’s it!

Using this method I find my diaper material is composted within a month (you will start to see big yellow globs of sodium polyacrylate from the diaper filling at the bottom of the compost heap and no detectable amount of the white fluffy stuff you started with).

Other stuff to know:

– Normal daytime diapers have a good amount of filling

– Night-time diapers have lots of filling and lots of polyacrylate

– Pull-ups have very little filling – I don’t bother composting these

– Don’t even try to compost a swim diaper

Go – be green – save water – save your municipal landfill – save the earth – make great compost!

Credits: I did various bits of research around the web to figure this out. There’s surprisingly little information out there on how to do this, and some of it was my own experimentation. has a list of the contents of a diaper. At some point I’m sure I looked at this earlier instructable: but the key thing in mine here is the spread-and-bury technique that works well for me.