A Conversation for Nappies

Environmental effects of diapers

Post 1

Tom I.

The diaper entry needs a few updates:

Cloth diapers are nowadays much like the disposable paper/plastic ones, you don't have to fold them and fasten them with a safety pin anymore. On the other hand, they cost a fortune. You save some money compared to buying disposable ones, but there are a few drawbacks. One is when you are travelling with you diaper user, you have to bring the used ones with you after changing, in stead of throwing it away.

The environmental effects are widely discussed. In the eighties, when the world finally realised that "green behaviour" was important, disposable things were banned. Everything was to be re-used or recycled. Nowadays, environmental experts of all kinds are raising a few questions on that. Cloth diapers should be washed at temperatures close to 90 degrees celsius. That is very energy consuming. Running your washing machine all the time also uses a lot of drinkable water, water that numerous people in the third world would kill for.

Disposable diapers, on the other hand, are nowadays made of paper tissue and decomposable plastic. They can therefore be composted, or they can be burnt, giving a lot of energy along with other burnable waste.


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 2

Dilapidated

Two comments:

1. Terry nappies are the infant equivalent of the towel (as recommended by the original h2g2). They are amazingly flexible (for example bib, blanket, shawl, pillow, cloth, surrender flag) - before use, obviously. In my humble opinion they are more effective than disposables. Thus they regain on the environmental side by the length of their useful life. One thing I will not be doing is using the muslin liners for straining jam (as recommended by the shopkeeper who sold them to us).

2. Exactly how do I get the water not used by my washing machine over to the Third World?


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 3

Tom I.

Question #2 is a good one. The problem is very simple, in "our" world we can run our dishwashers, washing machines, showers and bath tubs without ever worrying about water resources. In the third world, people starve because of (among other things) lack of water. We should come up with a way of transporting large amounts of drinking water to places where it is needed. Cynically: Not only because of the third world, but also because that if communities such as Japan grow even more in population, they will also have a drinking water problem, and they will be able to pay a lot for it. Or start a war to get it...


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 4

Dilapidated

Perhaps we should start a new forum on the practicalities of getting water from where it is drowning people to where it is needed. It was not so long ago that Yorkshire was running out of water while over the Pennines they had more than enough. If it can't be moved around the same country how can we get it around the world?

Oh, and I forgot to mention point 3 before. Disposables create an enormous amount of unpleasant landfill. If I were to use exclusively disposables for our baby, it would double our non-recyclable waste. Multiply that by the number of children in the country and that is one big pile of, er, nappies.


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 5

Bernadette Lynn_ Home Educator

It takes less energy to wash four days' worth of cloth nappies than it takes to manufacture a day's worth of disposables (assuming the same number of changes a day). I can't remember the exact figure, but presumably it changes depending on the efficiency of your washing machine anyway.

Disposable nappies take up to five hundred years to decompose, and at this time, there are no available 'disposable' nappies which contain no plastic. They also contain a highly poisonous gel which can be fatal to animals. (No one has tested it on babies, obviously, but nappies can split quite easily).

Cloth nappies do not need to be washed at 90°; there are several nappy washes which are effective at 40°, and in fact nappies can be soaked in cold water with tea tree oil or a nappy sanitiser, then simply rinsed. I do a 60° wash every four months or so, and if I have time I rinse my nappies by hand, further reducing the amount of power I use.

The only time any of my children have suffered from nappy rash was before I discovered that Charlotte was allergic to Sudocrem, and the occasional mild rash, lasting an hour or so, when they have been teething - easily solved by washing their skin with water and leaving the nappy off for a short while.

Having said that, I do occasionally resort to disposables - in fact, I used them for nearly three months after my caesarian.


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 6

Mol - on the new tablet

Hear hear. And washing nappies is not a disgusting job - you simply put the nappies in the washing machine and switch it on. Thereafter you're dealing with lovely fluffy fresh-smelling clean nappies, mmm. The way people carry on, you'd think the only way of dealing with a dirty cloth nappy is to lick it clean smiley - yuk. Honestly - it's not hard. Finding the plastic pants to go with them is the hard part about cloth nappies nowadays smiley - smiley.

The proliferation of disposable nappies is an indication of the power of advertising. There is nothing great about having a child which doesn't know that it's wet or soiled, as people discover when they try to train their children out of disposables and into pants.

I'm not puritannical about it - I use disposables at night after a certain age, and during the day if we go out, and when we're away on holiday. They're convenient. But that doesn't mean that proper nappies are hard work, because they aren't, and they're a lot better for our babies and the planet they're inheriting.

Is there a soapbox smiley?


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 7

Bernadette Lynn_ Home Educator

I think finding decent nappies is the hard part; we started with a few shaped terries and a couple of plastic wraps from Sainsbury's, and it wasn't until Charlotte was a couple of months old that I thought of looking online. I couldn't believe the range of nappies and wraps available, and we've ended up with a nice range of nappies for all occasions and a selection of wool wraps which are so nice I actually enjoy using them.

I'd never thought of fleece liners either, till I tried the internet. Babies with a fleece liner in their nappy feel dry even when the nappy is soaking, which helps if they are waking in the night from wet nappies, though you have to stop that when they are 18 months or so and old enough to stay dry all night.

My daughters were dry day and night by their second birthdays, which was wonderful.

I don't mind washing nappies - it's the changes I used to hate, in the first four or five months before you can start potty training them; and changes are just as bad using disposables.


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 8

Mol - on the new tablet

I still use square terries, folded, with a liner - these are also hard to track down but Waitrose do some good ones on a roll, like huge bits of toilet paper. I bought a dozen new nappies for each baby but kept using the old ones too (I inherited some from my mother, who never throws anything away, for my first baby - really threadbare nappies are good for very tiny babies) so I've never looked into shaped nappies. You're right, the changing is the hard part, and it makes no difference there what nappy you use. Anyway, our third and last baby is coming up to two now so that's nearly the end of my nappy experience I suppose!


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 9

Susan Shocks

Seven years on from the first post, this entry still needs updating!

I am a resolute real nappy user (or my daughter is, anyway). As a previous poster said, they are not hard work and we have no problems with nappy rash.

There was some research published recently that concluded that there was little environmental difference - when you added up ALL the costs and environmental effects associated with both types - between real and disposable nappies. I have to say, though, that I just don't believe that - I keep thinking of the landfill sites filling up with millions of plastic parcels of poo!

We do use disposables when out and about or when we are travelling and don't have access to private laundry facilities (I don't think taking a pile of smelly nappies to a laundrette would go down very well!).


Environmental effects of diapers

Post 10

Bernadette Lynn_ Home Educator

I need to update my last statement too; my most recent baby has been nappy free since she was two months old (more or less) and I don't think you need to wait until they're four or five months old to start potty training.

It's really handy having all the terry nappies to line chairs and car seats and cots in case of accidents, but our nappy washing has gone down to roughly half a load a week or less (we use them for spills too), which I think is even more environmentally friendly.


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Environmental effects of diapers

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