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Methods to Reclaim and Recycle High-Integrity Absorbent Materials from Disposable Absorbent Articles

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000108766D
Publication Date: 2005-Mar-22
Document File: 3 page(s) / 60K

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Related People

Jeff La Fortune: AUTHOR [+4]

Abstract

In the manufacture of disposable absorbent articles, not all production is acceptable for sale due to quality defects. To maintain low manufacturing costs, specific materials from these off-quality products are often reclaimed (or recycled) by feeding selected material back into the production process. Here we describe a novel method for reclaiming advanced high-integrity absorbent materials.

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Methods to Reclaim and Recycle High-Integrity Absorbent Materials from Disposable Absorbent Articles

Jeff La Fortune, Dave Fell, Mike Venturino, and Mike Faulks Kimberly-Clark Corporation

Neenah, Wisconsin

In the manufacture of disposable absorbent articles, not all production is acceptable for sale due to quality defects. To maintain low manufacturing costs, specific materials from these off-quality products are often reclaimed (or recycled) by feeding selected material back into the production process. This allows reuse of the reclaimed material to produce saleable product. Typically, conventional absorbent materials such as superabsorbent polymer (SAP) and cellulosic fluff fibers are recycled for reuse since they often can be cleanly separated and fed into the process in prescribed amounts. Non-absorbent product components (chassis, liner, fasteners, etc.) are sent to a waste stream for disposal or recycle into other lower grade end uses.

With the advent of advanced high-integrity absorbents containing high concentrations of superabsorbent bonded or otherwise commingled with continuous fibers, for example synthetic meltblown and/or cellulosic fibers, conventional reclaim methods are no longer appropriate. More complete descriptions of these high-integrity absorbents can be found in the following patents: US 4,100,324, issued to Anderson et al., July 11, 1978; US 4,429,001, issued to Kolpin et al., Jan. 31, 1984; and US 6,362,389, issued to McDowall et al., March 26, 2002.

Advanced high-integrity absorbents can also come in the form of "airlaid" materials as described in U.S. Patent Application US 2002/0169428 A1 to Fell et. al. These absorbent composites typically comprise a mixture of fluff pulp fibers such as Weyerhaeuser NB-416 (Federal Way, Washington), superabsorbent polymers such as Degussa FAVOR® SXM-880, and thermoplastic binder fibers such as KoSa T255 made by Invista (Wichita, Kansas). The composite is typically airformed as a homogeneous mixture of fibers and superabsorbent which is then subjected to heat (about 165°C for about 10 seconds) to bind the structure together into a high-integrity material. Other binding means such as latexes can also be used in addition to or in place of the binder fibers.

In addition to the coform and airlaid absorbent materials described above, this reclaim process can provide a means to recycle all or a portion of selected components for absorbent materials described in US 2003/0060112 A1 by Rezai et al., published March 27, 2003. These absorbent materials are produced by adhesively attaching superabsorbent polymer particulate to a nonwoven or other type of carrier substrate in an effort to impart dry integrity.

In a conventional reclaim process, the binder component of a high-integrity absorbent material does not allow the absorbent to easily separate into its constituent components,

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thus rendering these conventional methods ineffective and cost prohibitive due to the lo...