Are reusable nappies better for the environment?

An estimated 3,000,000,000 nappies are disposed of every year within the UK, this accounts for up to 3% of all household waste according to recycling charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme). A study has shown that on average once a child has reached and mastered potty training, they will have used up to 6,000 disposable nappies. Accounting for a huge 600,000 tonnes of waste every year in comparison to 20-30 reusable nappies. Furthermore, 1,500 litres of crude oil is used to produce enough disposable nappies to last a new born child through to potty trained.

The majority of nappies are non-recyclable and therefore, must be placed into the general waste bin. Disposable nappies take 500 years to decompose in landfill, which has been found to slowly release 630kg of methane gas into the atmosphere. The slow decomposition of these is often due to the lack of air flow from the sheer amount of rubbish within the landfills. On the other hand, they can also be burnt. One positive of this is the energy from burning these can be used for fuel in the future, however, in doing so still produces greenhouse gases which then further contribute to climate change. Additionally, not only will the nappy go into landfill so will the contents, which then ends up in our water system. Eco nappies on the other hand, the contents results in the waste water supply meaning it is then treated in a plant in the same way as adult waste.

Carbon emissions are highly associated with the production of disposable nappies. Mainly due to the material, packing, disposable wipes and bin bags used to change the nappy. All of which contain plastic. Plus, the consideration of fuel being burnt for refuse collection and transporting to shops and homes. Depending on brand it has been shown that sustainable nappies can reduce the use of raw materials by 98% and half your weekly rubbish. Furthermore, disposable nappies contain potentially harmful chemicals such as chlorine, dyes, fragrances, phthalates, which have been linked to skin conditions and even toxic shock syndrome.

Cloth Nappy vs Disposable

It almost seems obvious, that to protect the environment, environmentally conscious parents should use organic nappies. These involve liners and are made up of cloth that can then be washed and reused. However, arguments that often surface when discussing cloth nappy vs disposable are water usage, the energy that is used to wash the nappies and detergents. Additionally, washable nappies are sometimes made from synthetic materials such as microfibers, microfleeces and microsuedes. These fibres give off small plastic strands that are released into the waterways.

A report conducted by the Environment Agency compared the environmental impact of both disposable and reusable nappies across two and a half years. Results showed that disposable created around 550kg of carbon emissions in comparison to reusable which resulted in 570kg. They concluded this was mainly due to the way in which the nappies were washed and dried. Their figures were based on nappies being washed at 60°C and then 1 out 4 loads being dried using a tumble dryer. However, there are ways in which parents can reduce and control these greenhouse gas emissions created by reusable nappies:

  • Wash nappies on a fuller load
  • Wash by hand
  • Hang nappies up to dry either on a clothes horse, radiator or outside
  • Use an energy efficient washing machine
  • Wash on a colder wash
  • Reuse the nappies on another child, which was reported to reduce carbon emissions by up to 40%
  • Wash with biodegradable, phosphate-free detergents

Why Nipper Nappies

Nipper Nappies is a family run business whose passion for design combined with a product they truly believed in. Our reusable nappies are made from organic cloth and fleece and the layered liners have a bamboo and microfibre mix. This ensures they don’t release plastic microfibres and maximises absorbency. Furthermore, the double gusset, tummy band, and waterproof outer layer keeps wetness retained. Cloth nappies also use a non-chemical absorption method, therefore, aiding your child’s skin to breathe naturally, reducing skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Lastly, they bring together attractive fun patterns and styles while being high quality environmentally friendly material. View our range here to benefit the planet and your child’s future.