How to choose an eco-friendly nappy

November 07, 2020 3 min read

How to choose an eco-friendly nappy

Anyone can call their product 'eco' - clever branding and a careful choice of words is often all that is needed.

There is no legislation that ensures an 'eco' product is promoted or packaged in a consistent and transparent way. In fact brands don't have to share all the materials or ingredients they use - and sadly many don't, or if they do it's in...

very tiny print.

Nappies and baby wipes remain one of the biggest, single-use plastic problems in the world. So if you are thinking of making a change here's what you need to know.

What are disposable nappies made from?

Polypropylene and polyethylene are two of the main plastic materials used in nappies. They are not only single-use plastics that won't biodegrade - they are also manufactured using fossil fuels. Other similarly 'unfriendly' materials are polyurethane and polyester. Polyester is the most common material used for wipes - and yes it's plastic.

Some nappies use a LOT of these materials - others use less and some hardly any at all. But watch out, just because a nappy is branded 'pure' doesn't mean it's not made from oil-based plastics. And if it says it's made from natural cotton then check how much cotton has actually been used. Sometimes just 10-15% is cotton or 'natural materials' - and the rest probably includes polypropylene.

Mama Bamboo nappy covers and wipes are 100% bamboo fibre. Zero % plastic.

How biodegradable are eco nappies?

Biodegradability depends on how much of the nappy is made using natural materials as plastic materials don't biodegrade. Even oxo-biodegradable plastics don’t really biodegrade as they require very special conditions. Some countries have actually banned oxo-biodegradable plastics labelling themselves as biodegradable at all.

Mama Bamboo nappies are 80% biodegradable, our nappy packaging is 100% biodegradable and our wipes are 100% biodegradable. 

Some brands don't disclose their % biodegradability - and if they don't then you should question why.

But does it even matter if they end up in landfill? Of course it does. Any natural material does not require more virgin fossil fuel to produce and will break down and decompose in time - plastics simply won't. Period. 

Nappy fasteners and elastic

So why are Mama Bamboo nappies 80% biodegradable and not 100%? So far we've found it impossible to find an eco-friendly material for our tabs that works well enough to prevent leaks. We tested one in 2019 and sadly those nappies just weren't strong enough to cope with night times. Tabs, plus the small amount of elastic we use, are the two plastic based materials in our nappies that we have not managed to replace. We will not compromise on performance or reliability.

How hard can it be?

This is what our founder, Laura, said after trying every nappy available - nappies either worked but caused nappy rash and were made of plastic, or were made from natural materials but didn't work very well. So when Mama Bamboo eco- nappies were voted 'Best Performance Disposable Nappy Range' at the 2020 Mother & Baby Awards we knew we had achieved our aim... to prove that you can make a genuinely eco-friendly disposable nappy that works!

Our ethos

Honesty. Laura discovered some of the brands she was using were really not very eco at all, and she felt hoodwinked by the 'greenwash'.

We don't shy away from any questions about our nappies or wipes - because we know we have considered the impact on the planet in everything we do. We know bamboo is the most sustainable natural material we can choose and we use a 100% compostable liner. Our packaging is a 100% compostable corn starch film. We opt for bio-fuel options with our shipping, and we offset our shipping carbon emissions with an amazing project in Uganda (they plant more bamboo!).

Disposable nappies are a problem that isn’t going to go away and must be tackled sensibly. For over 10 years councils have promoted cloth as the only eco-option but with very little success. The stats don’t lie; less than 8% of new parents use cloth. Not everyone is willing or able to use reusable nappies. Even those that do often choose a disposable at night or when on holiday. Modern parents require the convenience of disposables. And basic modern convenience shouldn't come at the cost of the environment and it really doesn't need to. Mama Bamboo nappies and wipes offer all the convenience and performance of a disposable at a fraction of the impact to the environment. 

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