Jellyfish Diapers

The next innovation in child rearing is something no parent could have anticipated: eco-friendly diapers made from … jellyfish.

Israel-based nanotechnology company Cine’al Ltd. is developing technology to turn jellyfish into a super-absorbent material for use in diapers, tampons, medical sponges, and maybe even paper towels. And diapers made from jellyfish aren't just products that put beach pests to good use—they are also more environmentally friendly than most disposable diapers because they could biodegrade much more quickly in landfills.

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Cine’al’s innovation comes just at the right time, when loads of jellyfish are clogging Israel’s beaches, reports The Times of IsraelIsrael isn’t the only country facing a jellyfish surge. Last year, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization reported that jellyfish “blooms” may occur in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea because of overfishing and rising water temperatures. 

Cine’al developed a process to replace the synthetic absorbent materials typically used in products like diapers with a more environmentally friendly “hydromash” that absorbs many times its volume in liquid. Researchers at Cine’al turn jellyfish into hydromash using a process that also allows for the addition of antibacterial nano-particles. The hydromash biodegrades in fewer than 30 days and is cost-competitive with current absorbent materials, The Time of Israel reports.

The unique qualities of hydromash come from the cellular structure of jellyfish, whose bodies have evolved to absorb large volumes of liquid without turning into mush themselves.

To make a year's supply of standard disposable diapers for one baby, 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstock, and 20 pounds of chlorine are required, according to the Real Diaper Association. Each year, 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used in the U.S., creating more than 3.4 million tons of waste, Healthline previously reported.

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And, boy, do diapers take up space in landfills … and they will for centuries. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, disposable diapers last for hundreds of years. The Real Diaper Association pins the landfill lifetime of a diaper at 250 to 500 years, so the diapers you used as a baby will outlive you. On average, a baby will go through about 8,000 diapers, the EPA reports. 

“One-third of disposable waste in dumps consists of diapers,” Ofer Du-Nour, chairman and president of Cine’al and head of investment firm Capital Nano, told The Times of Israel. “In its first year, a newborn baby generates, on average, 70 kilos [155 pounds] of diapers, maybe more.”

While alternatives to disposable diapers already exist—think reusable cloth diapers—jellyfish hydromash could offer the best of both worlds: convenience and environmental friendliness. Cine’al is exploring partnership options in Korea and South Carolina, where there are currently jellyfish-harvesting operations, Green Prophet reports.

Certainly, a diaper made from jellyfish adds a twist to the common (but sadly fictional) cure for jellyfish stings: urine.

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