MUST READ! Disposable nappies: What's their environmental cost?

November 14, 2018 2 min read

MUST READ! Disposable nappies: What's their environmental cost?

Image from Getty Images

Excerpts from a BBC article published 3 Oct 2018 (Red highlighting and Green comments are my own...).

"Disposable nappies have been in the firing line at the Conservative Party conference today, as Environment Secretary Michael Gove hinted at a future ban."

"An estimated three billion nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, accounting for 2-3% of all household waste", according to recycling charity Wrap.

The vast majority of nappies are not recyclable and must be thrown away with general waste. This means they will probably end up in landfill or being burnt.

The main alternatives are biodegradable nappies or cloth nappies that can be washed and reused.

Wrap says by the time they are potty trained, a baby could have used 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies, or 20 to 30 reusable nappies.

Throwaway nappies contain plastic and so does the packaging they come in (Bamaboo nappies are made of bamboo layers not polyester and are wrapped in oxo-degradable film).

Although on many measures reusable nappies are better for the environment, they come with their own costs.

In particular, reusable nappies seem to be worse in terms of carbon emissions. The Environment Agency, in 2008, estimated that over the two and a half years it reckoned a typical child would wear nappies, disposables would create 550kg of carbon emissions. And reusables would create 570kg of carbon emissions. That's because of the energy it takes to wash and dry them. Washing them on a full load, a more energy efficient setting or by hand, and hanging them out to dry rather than tumble-drying can all reduce the environmental impact. But this suggests a further hidden cost - the labour involved in the extra laundry created. (Bamaboo eco-disposables offer a greener solution combined with quality and much needed convenience for parents.)

Meanwhile, the environmental impact of disposable nappies could also be reduced by:

  • Changing the materials they are made of (Bamaboo nappies are made of bamboo and chlorine free pulp)
  • Reducing their weight to lessen transport costs (Bamaboo nappies are packaged in big packs to reduce their transport costs, i.e. 94 nappies in a Size 2 pack versus the standard 30 off a supermarket shelf)
  • Disposing of them differently (Join us in supporting the movement for household nappy collections and council managed hot composting and recycling)

But these changes are in the hands of manufacturers (proud to say we're doing our bit here at Mama Bamboo) and the waste disposal system rather than families.