04/22/22 – Twenty Thousand Kids

Spacetrawler, audio version For the blind or visually impaired, April 22, 2022.




That’s a LOT of diapers. 🙂


  1. Pete Rogan

    Let’s see, twenty thousand times twelve times a day (a typical human rate of diaper use) produces 240,000 used diapers a day. If a single washerload handled some 20 used diapers, and took 40 minutes to cycle, followed by another 40 minutes of machine drying, you’d need 666.6666666… washer-dryer machines to handle the load. This doesn’t count loading, changing machines, folding, or transporting where they need to go. Add in a comfortable margin for breakdowns and this operation would need about a thousand washing/drying machines running 24 hours a day to handle the load. This calculation does not include the time spent scraping the deposits into another container, the volume or number of said containers, or the daily space needed in whatever disposal facility to handle the loads(sic).

    Those robots better damn well be put together well. And there need to be at least twelve thousand of them to handle diaper duty alone.

    We’ll leave aside what I think of the Stribs trying to get around Harry Harlow’s findings by using a substitute species. I can only say ‘despicable’ so many times a day, you know.

    1. Efogoto

      Aitana got her special suit from a synth. The Stribs could be getting their diapers from a synth. Feed the used ones in to get the mass to create fresh ones, and problem solved.

    1. Pete Rogan

      It wasn’t G_d but Procter & Gamble engineer Victor Mills, who built a small-scale production facility in 1956 that was expanded the next year when P&G purchased the Charmin Paper Company and looked into disposable diapers more seriously. The first Pampers were sold in Peoria, IL in 1961, and have done nothing but grow in number and use since then.

      Presently disposable diapers comprise some 4% of all US municipal solid waste, or over seven million tons annually. Accurate volume figures are difficult to come by, due to compaction over time, but it’s still a lot of… poop. In our landfills. Taking 500 years to biodegrade, never mind their contents.

      Scaled down to the 20,000 infant Stribs, each of who use 8-10 diapers per day, we’re looking at the problem of disposing of some 40,000-60,000 kg of used diapers every 24 hours. Depending on how deep you dig the dump, this is a pile of some 50 meters cubed. Every day. Planets are big, and we can turn an unholy number of hectares into waste dumps and not notice it, but in place of washer/dryers you now have to have a fleet of garbage trucks, excavators and graders to handle the generated waste.

      And this does not take into account the trees or other sources of fiber, the petroleum or other complex hydrocarbon source to turn into elastic and seals, or the factories and their trained workers and engineers needed to produce the necessary volume. Or the transport to move raw materials into the factories and deliver disposable diapers to the Strib nursery. But it’s likely a larger number of machines, Stribs, and infrastructure than you can easily imagine.

      Efogoto reminds us that Galactic technology is not so inefficient, and between pottybots and synths the entire production-use-recycle-reuse cycle could be closed and handled relatively quickly, with minimal material or knowledge inputs. But you oughta consider what goes into the cycle today in order to get an idea of the work involved. Not to mention the energy, or its sources.

      Now I’m going to make a lemonade from powdered mix and rest the remainder of the day from my efforts. Whew!

      1. tlhonmey

        Given a consistent waste stream, even our own level of technology can “recycle” things like disposable diapers efficiently. They’re made of over 99% hydrocarbons in one form or another, and with proper setup could be converted into fuel oil at around 80-90% efficiency.

        We don’t because it’s not currently worth the effort to sort them out from the other trash, but if all our children were in one facility like the Stribs are doing then it could likely provide enough fuel to power the facility itself.

  2. Muzhik

    @ Pete Rogan
    … and have done nothing but grow…
    Oh, yeah, yu betcha. I’ve done seen disposable diapers for kids up to 30 lbs. It’s time to push the potty-bot on him, fer sure.

    Back when dinosaurs were young and the earth was slightly used, my now-ex and I hashed out if we were going to use cloth diapers or disposables. We found some research that said cloth was better in the eastern US, where there wasn’t so much landfill space but lot’s of water for washing; while disposables were better out west, where there wasn’t as much water but more land for disposal available. We lived in the midwest center of the country, so we could have gone either way. My then-wife looked at me and stated flatly, “We’re using disposables.” Hey, works for me!

    This strip (https://www.baldwinpage.com/spacetrawler/2010/02/22/spacetrawler-18/) from the first Spacetrawler series shows what a proper disrupter ray can do to unneeded biological waste.

  3. TB

    You know, it occurs to me that if there were an alien species that needed humans to spend their days cuddling immensely cute little puppies with “the occasional diaper change,” there probably would be hundreds of thousands of willing volunteers from Earth alone. Hell, I have a couple of relatives that would claw their way onto the spaceship.

    It just never occurred to the Stribs to simply put out ads. They automatically assumed that the job would be as distasteful to any other species as it was to them.

  4. rws

    So, is this something they have been doing in the past? Could this be why the current generation are all … can I say that here?

    Got nicked for commenting on an article about how balloons cause trouble when they land on power lines. Suggested that latex balloons aren’t a problem. Some robot had a fit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *