Photo by Sumo

With millions of used diapers ending up in landfills every year, this new kind of reusable diaper has been shortlisted as one of the 20 international finalists for the prestigious James Dyson Award.

These Sumo diapers are made out of a recyclable material called SeaCell: an antibacterial, absorbent, and biodegradable textile that is made out of seaweed and eucalyptus.

Not only is the material rich in antioxidants that are good for the skin, the diaper components can be sustainably harvested and recycled.

“The unique properties of seaweed help to protect our skin against harmful environmental influences,” reads the SeaCell website. “The seaweed is pure and rich in essential substances such as vitamins, trace elements, amino acids and minerals.”

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The company continues, “The substances found in seaweed help to activate cell regeneration, which in turn can help to relieve skin diseases, reduce inflammation and soothe itchiness. Its high level of antioxidants protects the skin against harmful free radicals, which damage our skin cells.”

Many machine-washable diapers on the market today are not recyclable because they are lined with polyester or polyurethane in order to keep the textiles waterproof.

According to the design magazine Dezeen, the Sumo diapers are sustainably waterproofed thanks to an environmentally-friendly kind of waterproofing technology called EcoRepel.

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Swiss designer Luisa Kahlfeldt was inspired to develop the diapers for her masters project at the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne after she was struck by how wasteful and inefficient traditional diapers are for the European Union.

“Disposable diapers are the third largest single item contributor to landfills—in the EU alone, 17 million diapers are disposed of each day,” says Kahlfeldt. “Composed of a mix of cellulose fibers, super-absorbing polymers, and synthetic fabrics, a diaper takes up to 500 years to decompose.

“Disposable diapers also contain potentially harmful chemicals and toxins that have been linked to causing serious skin conditions, diaper rash and recently even cases of cancer,” she added. “This observation inspired me to re-engineer this everyday product and design a 100% mono-material SeaCell diaper that fully utilizes the materials inherent skin protection and hygiene properties.”

Sumo will now be competing against 19 other innovations for this year’s final winner of the James Dyson Awards.

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