A road surface not to be sniffed at: the highway made of used nappies

A Welsh firm has developed a method to convert used nappies into a road surface, which is thought to be a world-first. Will this idea catch on?

If you’re one of those drivers who reckons Britain’s roads are, well, a bit crap – buckle up. 

An unlikely solution to parenting’s dirtiest secret – namely the 3bn disposable nappies binned each year in the UK – has been trialled on a road in Wales. 

South Wales-based recycling company NappiCycleSince years, it has been collecting nappy bags from kerbsides for the Welsh councils. Now, it uses nappies to resurface roads in a pilot scheme supported by the Welsh government.


Rob Poyer, founder and CEO of NappiCycle came up with a way to clean used nappies and separate the plastics and cellulose fibres. The cellulose is used in school and office noticeboards and panelling, insulation, and under laminate flooring. The plastics are sent to secondary recycling facilities. 

The firm processes approximately 800,000 nappies per week. Its operation literally takes the pee. Even the urine taken from nappies can be reused. 

For the road project – a joint venture between NappiCycle and eco-friendly baby care outfit Pura – 4.3 tonnes of recovered nappy fibres were added to the bitumen to help the surface bond. Poyer claims that the fibres are less expensive than those typically added to roads surfaces. 

What happens to used nappies

To the road surface are added pellets of nappy-derived, cellulose fibre. Image: Pura

The cost of processing the used nappies is about 15% more than incinerating them or putting them in a landfill. But this is a small price to pay for “creating a resource rather than a liability”, said Poyer. The “nappy-enhanced” asphalt, he added, offers improved durability, with a reduced carbon footprint to boot. 

The trial was conducted along the A487 near Cardigan, and involved approximately 107,000 nappies. That’s a tiny proportion of the 400,000 tonnes currently sent to landfill each year, where they take up to 500 years to degrade. But could this be a step in the right directions? 

“With this trial, we hope to demonstrate that waste nappies could be widely adopted in our roads, right around the UK,” said Poyer.

Main image: Pura