These are one of the biggest areas of consumption and these days many new mothers automatically assume disposable ones are the only option. These are undoubtedly convenient for the busy mother but they do result in an enormous waste problem. Nearly 3 billion nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, and disposing of them costs local authorities a lot of money. About 90% end up in landfill sites, where they decompose very slowly. Some local authorities are actively promoting cloth nappies as part of their waste reduction strategies.
The Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) promotes the use of washable nappies as a convenient and more environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable nappies, and can provide lots of information. For real nappy suppliers, laundry services, agents, networks and incentive schemes contact The Real Nappy Helpline 0845 850 0606 or go to the postcode searchable directory on the nappy finder website. Both are run by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)’s Real Nappy Campaign. Most of the enterprises listed under ‘some suppliers‘ sell cloth nappies, as well as other baby products.
One advantage of washable nappies is that they are likely to be much cheaper than disposables. WEN calculates the cost of real nappies for a baby’s nappy wearing life is under £70 and even taking into account the cost of washing them at home this is much cheaper than buying disposable nappies. In addition to the environmental benefits, many mothers find that cloth nappies, especially the organic ones, free of pesticides and synthetic chemicals, are gentler on a baby’s sensitive skin than the super absorbent chemicals, paper pulp and plastics of which disposable nappies are made.
Washable nappies. Square terry nappies which need folding and pinning are not the only alternative to disposable nappies. A great deal of effort has gone into developing simple and straightforward to use washable nappies and there is a good choice available. There are various ranges of pre-shaped and fitted nappies with velcro or poppers for easy fastening, and waterproof covers. Some are made of organic or of unbleached fibre, some come in cheerful colours, or fashion prints. Many nappy sales agents can provide a personal service helping parents to choose the right nappies to suit their baby, lifestyle and budget.
Nappy services offer local delivery and collection of freshly laundered cotton nappies for parents, childminders, nurseries and hospitals. Contact the National Association of Nappy Services (NANS) for details of local services. NANS promotes the use of cloth nappies and protects the public by ensuring that only approved laundry procedures are followed.
Eco-disposables provide the convenience of disposables but are better for your baby and the environment as they contain fewer chemicals. However, they do not avoid the waste disposal issues.
- Tushies gel-free disposable nappies do not contain artificial absorbents, such as sodium polyacrylate, which form a gel when they come into contact with moisture. Instead they are made with a natural blend of cotton, are gel free, perfume free, latex and dye free, though with a plastic outer cover to prevent leakage.
- MOLTEX Eco-disposable nappies have an unbleached core instead of one treated with chemicals such as highly toxic organochlorines which pollute waterways, damage wildlife and fisheries and, ultimately, affect humans. They are free from bleaching agents, TBT and perfumes, and are dermatologically approved. Bambo Nature is another similar product.
- Ecobaby say that Moltex disposable nappies can be composted and will biodegrade within 8 weeks (12 weeks is a more conservative estimate). However, NAPPIES WILL NOT COMPOST IF PLACED IN LANDFILL – conditions in landfill are anaerobic, and hostile to the composting process. Instead some kind of composting facility has to be used. It’s unlikely that your local authority will provide one, so you’d probably need to . For full-time use it would need to be quite large – estimates start at 8’x4′ in area. This would be quite a radical thing to take on, and you need to be aware of the hygiene issues: worth doing some research before you try it. More information is in the section on composting of eco nappies on the Ecobaby website. Good luck! – and do let us know of any success stories.