Dirty diapers: MN high schoolers' plan could help solve a major problem


A group of five students from Proctor High School developed a process to ease a major environmental threat – disposable diapers.

Diapers last centuries in landfills, the Environmental Protection Agency says, and about 20 billion are dumped into landfills in the United States every year, Livestrong notes.

And a possible solution could come from northern Minnesota.

The Students Striving for Eco Friendly Engineering (SSEFE) group at Proctor High School came up with a process to recycle diapers that has caught the attention of some leading scientists and thinkers.

SSEFE developed an idea for a system that would recycle the disposable diapers by neutralizing the human waste, then deconstruct the diapers into basic elements that can then be reused, eliminating the buildup in the world's landfills, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

The team presented its idea at the 2015 Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge in Florida over the weekend, and beat out four other finalists and two wildcard teams to win in the Environment and Energy category, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

SSEFE was awarded a trophy and a $5,000 scholarship to help turn its idea into something real.

They'll also get help to develop a patent, and get the chance to work with the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, part of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, to mold their idea into a workable project, the Duluth News Tribune adds.

The Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge was founded in 2008 in honor of Apollo 12 astronaut and innovator Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., who died in 1999. The multi-phase competition aims to bring students together to develop ideas that will help the world in four categories: aerospace and aviation; cyber technology; energy and environment; and health and nutrition.

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Northern Minnesota county struggles with dirty diaper dumping

The Bemidji Pioneer reports adult diapers, catheters, syringes and other hazardous waste have been turning up in road ditches in Beltrami County over the past few years. The county has to hire specialists to dispose of the garbage, and it's racking up quite the bill, prompting officials to release this statement: "Please stop this behavior and do the right thing -- take your poopy diapers to the dumpsite."