Exotech Bio Solutions Ltd., an Israeli start-up high-tech
company, claims that it has solved the main environmental
problem of disposable diapers with its biodegradable
"The problem with a disposable diaper isn't the cotton from
which it is made, or the paper that covers it, or the plastic
sticker, or even the plastic bag in which it is sold,"
Exotech CEO Zvi Meiri told Globes. "The problematic
component of a disposable diaper is the absorbent
The absorbent material is a special powder that is in the
cotton. It does the main work of absorbing the fluids in the
diaper. The product currently used is made largely from
acrylic acid, a petroleum product. Acrylic acid is not
biodegradable even after 500 years. Every diaper has 14 grams
of acrylic acid. 700 million diapers are sold each year in
Israel and 22 billion are sold in the US. That is a lot of
"Our material, a macromolecular compound called `ethylene-
bis-stearamide' (EBS) is as absorbent as acrylic acid," says
Meiri. "It can be added to a diaper in the same production
process. There is no difference for diaper manufacturers,
only advantages: 25 percent of EBS degrades within eight
weeks; it's cheaper than acrylic acid; there is no shortage,
as is the case with acrylic acid during oil shortages; and it
doesn't release free monomers that are liable to be health
Exotech founder Mandy Axelrad is an engineer. He knew two
Romanian scientists, polymer researchers, Prof. Mircea-Dan
Bucevschi and his wife Prof. Monica Colt. Axelrad proposed
that they come to Israel to join his company and jointly try
to solve the diaper problem. The couple already had 100
patents for polymers, but no resources to apply them. They
needed only a few months to come up with the answer.
Meiri was hired to make a going business.
EBS looks rather like jello granules; it is comprised of
gelatin and stearine, a petroleum product more available than
acrylic acid. Both substances dissolve in water.
EBS's secret is the link between the polymers comprising a
repeating molecule (called a monomer). Exotech's polymers, of
which EBS is one, have a unique 3D link, while the internal
links both within the monomers and between them are weak,
enabling bacteria to break them down into their composite
molecules: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
Tests conducted by Exotech found that within eight weeks,
bacteria degrade a quarter of the compound. This is a normal
test for examining how environmentally friendly a compound
Meiri also told Globes, "Degradation is a lengthy
process that is accelerated by bacteria in garbage dumps.
There's no way for the diaper to degrade before being thrown
Exotech is trying to set up its own factory to produce the
powder, or sign a contract with a medium-sized or large
international diaper maker. A third option is to cooperate
with a chemicals company not presently active in the diaper
business. The company is negotiating with potential
investors, and has launched a pilot production facility in
Investors were interested in Exotech not only because of
diapers, but because its polymer has a range of additional
applications in entirely different fields. For example, if a
plant is planted in a bed impregnated with EBS, the water
does not evaporate. Tests conducted by Exotech found that
plants can absorb EBS-impregnated water, thereby saving,
according to Exotech, 35-80 percent of water consumption. The
degrading process also releases ammonia, which can serve as a
Bandages also have to absorb liquids. Burn wounds, pressure
wounds, and diabetes wounds constantly excrete liquids that
must be absorbed. Bandages containing Exotech's compounds can
absorb liquids for two to three days without needing to be
replaced, allowing patients to be released during the
interim. Exotech is also examining the possibility of
impregnating bandages with controlled-release pharmaceuticals
for treating wounds.
Exotech's compound can help uniformly disperse water using to
cure concrete, thereby preventing cracks when it sets.
Exotech certainly has an interesting story to tell, but so do
many other companies. Hopefully it will bring at least some
of its ideas to market.