According to the EPA, the average baby will work their way through 8,000 of them before they end up in landfill where they'll take centuries to break down. In an effort to reduce the problem, scientists at Mexico's Autonomous Metropolitan University, Azcapotzalco (UAM-A), have turned used diapers to the task of growing mushrooms.
The project led by Rosa María Espinosa Valdemar uses only diapers containing liquid waste, which are first sterilized in an autoclave before being ground up and mixed with material containing lignin from pasture, grape pomace, coffee or pineapple crown to create a substrate.
Fungus spores grown on some wheat or sorghum are then spread on this substrate and placed in a plastic bag, where it is held for two to three weeks in dark conditions with controlled humidity and temperature before being exposed to light. With the mushrooms feeding on the cellulose that is present in the diapers, after a period of two-and-a-half to three months, the diaper degrades and reduces in volume and weight by up to 80 percent.
"For example, if we apply this technology in a kilo (2.2 lb) of diapers, at the end of the process it will be reduced to 200 g (7 oz) and 300 g (11 oz) of mushrooms," says Valdemar Espinosa.