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From absorbent hygiene products to biostimulants for sustainable crop nutrition: the challenge of the Recover project

FaterSMART, Valagro and Almacis join forces to develop a circular bioeconomic model.

Pescara (Italy), March 25th, 2021 – Transforming the output of the used absorbent hygiene product recycling process (secondary raw materials and liquid portion) into finished products with high added value.

This was the objective of the RECOVER project, funded by POR FESR Abruzzo 2014-2020, in which three of the Abruzzo Region's leading industrial firms took part: FaterSMART, the business unit of Fater Spa (a joint venture between Procter & Gamble and the Angelini Group); the project lead, Valagro, a leader in the production and sale of biostimulants and speciality nutrients for crops; and Almacis, a leader in innovative and sustainable solutions for energy systems, buildings and infrastructures. The project was created to support FaterSMART and its technology for recycling used Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs), transforming all the outputs of the process – such as waste from diapers and incontinence pads – into biostimulants with high added value, thus contributing to the development of a circular bioeconomic model.

RECOVER was underpinned by one-of-a-kind technology, developed by FaterSMART on an industrial scale, capable of recycling Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs – baby diapers, female sanitary towels, and incontinence aids) and recovering 100% of the raw materials that make them up (namely plastic, cellulose and super-absorbent polymer).

To develop the activities of the RECOVER project, which began in March 2017 and ended in March 2021, the three project partners leveraged the innovation and specific expertise gained in their own sectors, employing a highly synergistic approach centered on the Circular Economy. Specifically, these activities involved: construction of the first mixed plant in the world for the recycling of post-consumer and post-industrial AHPs (FaterSMART – Almacis); development of a gasification system for the transformation of cellulose from AHPs recycling into syngas to be used in the transformation process into biomass (FaterSMART – Almacis); development of a process for the syngas transformation into biomass to be used for the production of biostimulants (FaterSMART); development of biostimulants with a high-performance level for regulating and improving crops efficiency and yield (Valagro); and development and valorisation of materials recovered from both post-consumer and post-industrial AHPs (FaterSMART).

RECOVER was developed in synergy with EMBRACED, a European project led by FaterSMART. This project is funded by the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the Horizon 2020 program with the aim of developing, in the Abruzzo region (Italy), unique prototype technologies to construct the first multi-purpose biorefinery capable of transforming post-consumer and post-industrial AHP waste into biopolymers, biostimulants and other bio-based products.

The environmental performance of the materials, the RECOVER products and the FaterSMART recycling plant is laid out in a dossier created in collaboration with Rete Ambiente, which explains the main results of the project.