This Tech Company Bets You'll Buy Diapers Made of Jellyfish

Turning the invasive animal into biodegradable household items is a slippery job, but Cine'al Ltd. wants to do it.

The high absorption qualities of jellyfish have led an Israeli company to select the species for production of diapers, paper towels, and more. (Photo: Reuters/Richard Green)

Liana Aghajanian is TakePart's weekend editor. Her work has appeared in ForeignPolicy.com, BBC.com, Los Angeles Times, and TheAtlantic.com.

Israelis who have spent years dealing with the world’s most invasive species clogging up their shores will be happy to hear that a nanotechnology start-up has devised a way to turn jellyfish into more than just a reason to avoid the beach. 

Cine’al Ltd. is developing technology to turn jellyfish into a variety of paper products that can benefit from the jellyfish's absorbency, including diapers, paper towels, and even tampons. Yes, a tampon made of what was once marine life. Something tells us that is going to need a heck of a marketing campaign to sell.

The jellyfish explosion is a fast-spreading byproduct of warm ocean temperatures in the country. Though 900 million pounds of jellyfish are regularly caught for human consumption, Cine’al is interested in turning the animals into “super absorbers” by using a conversion process called Hydromash. The products can also have all the bells and whistles of regular paper products, with antibacterial qualities, colors, or scents.

Ofer Du-Nour, chairman and president of the company, told the Times of Israel that the product was inspired by Tel Aviv University research on the dirty facts about diapers.

“One-third of disposable waste in dumps consists of diapers,” Du-Nour said. “In its first year, a newborn baby generates, on average, 70 kilos of diapers a year, maybe more.”

Facts compiled by the Real Diaper Association put the environmental impact of regular diapers into an even more sobering perspective: More than 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks, and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year. 

The jellyfish has provided an ideal solution when it comes to reducing waste. Composed of more than 90 percent water, its ability to absorb large amounts of liquid is the key: Jellyfish diapers would be able to take in twice as much liquid and biodegrade in less than a month. Normal diapers made from synthetic material take aeons to properly break down.

Biodegradable diapers aren’t new—several brands are on the market—but the jellyfish’s invasive status makes the potential product all the more sustainable. Its growth as an invasive species has been partly due to the shipping industry, which draws water full of jellyfish and algae from one area of the ocean and then release it in a different one. The jellyfish's presence can be as damaging as oil spills, according to the World Wildlife Federation, and “their effects much more persistent.”

As for customers showing interest in putting diapers made of jellyfish on their infants? That's still up for debate. 

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