Every parent knows, babies produce A LOT of dirty diapers. But what if you could materialize these seemingly products of waste into something really valuable? Imagine if your baby's poo could actually make the world a better, more fruitful place...

Sounds crazy? Nope! That's the idea behind DYCLE. This week in our up & coming startups series: diapers that can change the world. How? DYCLE founder, Ayumi Matsuzaka gives us the dirty details. 

In this interview, she shares her thoughts how why working with scientists is the best way forward for start-ups, how the Blue Economy principle works and what art has to do with changing diapers. 

Fruit trees out of diapers?! Where did this idea come from?

As a freelance artist, I have worked in several nutrients cycle projects with soil scientists over the last 5 years. I am a big fan of black soil (called Terra Preta substrate).  And on top of that, I found out that there is a big demand from parents to do something good for the health of their baby and the the environment in a more practical way in their daily lives.

Parents give a lot of love, time and care to their baby in the first 2,5 years after they are born. Changing the diapers is an essential part of this time. So why not materialize this intimate and special time into something really valuable?

That is how I came up with the concept of using 100% compostable baby diapers and turning them into black soil, with a little help of the babies. I have been experimentng with scientists on how to make this process happen for the last two years. DYCLE is the result of this work.

Dycle. Der Windelkreislauf

Could you briefly explain the diaper recycling process for beginners?

We are working on installing pick up points where parents receive 100% compostable baby diapers and hand over the used ones.

The collected diapers will be transformed within approximately six months to a hygienic Terra Preta Substrate (Black soil). The nutrient rich black soil will be used to plant fruit trees on it. A few years later, once the trees bear fruits, we will invite the parents to harvest some of the crop that they helped grow. That is how we want to close the cycle and enable the families to gain back the nutrients they handed us some time before.

DYCLE

The operation processes will happen and be initiated inside and by a community. We are planning to gather 100 families in one community and create communities wherever there are families interested in changing the world a little to the better. We hope to be able to build up a community spirit where the families help and learn from each others. To support that, DYCLE will be sharing its Know-How and experience with the communities.

Where do you see DYCLE in 5 years?

We have recently initiated a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo which will be running until mid-December. Our first goal now is to create a community of 100 families that live in Berlin. This first community will experience the cycle. Our aim then is that new families will follow the steps of this pioneer community and form a new community. 

Thus, we are starting our initiative in Berlin but we also plan to spread it to other cities and countries. Currently, five different cities have showed interest in the project and willingness to participate. Depending on how many Changer Parents are out there, in five years we can achieve a lot together.

You work together closely with scientists. What opportunities and difficulties does that bring?

There were actually no difficulties, in our case we only experienced it as an opportunity to work with scientists. In order to close the nutrients cycle, we needed this kind of professional support. I am sure that without the scientists it wouldn't have been possible to get where we are now. We work with soil scientists, micro-biologist, a botanic garden project and more.

Die Reste der Dyclel

How can a recycling project like DYCLE secure a longterm financial stability?

Changing the one-way use of disposable diapers into a circular usage of valuable nutrients will offer different streams of revenue. 

Parents, children, city and community can participate in its advantage and will contribute to the project. We work with and follow the Blue Economy principle.

The Blue Economy principle is simple: Use what you have, generate more value and be inspired by the nature. We work for basic needs with an ethical attitude. In the case of DYCLE, the basic needs we offer are healthy soil, healthy trees and healthy foods for us and the next generation. The founder of  the Blue Economy, Gunter Pauli, is our teacher and ambassador.

This article was originally published in December 2015.