The Environmental Impact Of Disposable Nappies
As a mother or father, you quickly become aware of just how many nappies your baby uses. In fact, newborn babies use six to twelve nappies a day. This equates to a vast number of 5,000 nappies before full potty training is achieved. In the UK, this leads to three billion disposable nappies being thrown away annually.
Created in 1948, disposable nappies took hold for their easement of the nappy changing process and benefits such as promised containment and absorbency, but at what cost?
Opting for the convenience of disposable nappies quickly empties your purse or wallet but also has a high environmental cost.
Overflowing Landfill & Toxic Pollution
Two to three percent of all of the UK’s household waste is made up of disposable nappies, adding almost half a million tonnes to already overflowing landfills each year.
Most disposable nappies are not biodegradable nappies, and they make up 30% of the country’s non-biodegrade household waste. You may be thinking that this is all terrible, but there is no alternative. However, this is not the case.
Environmentally conscious parents are switching to reusable nappies. These cloth nappies have a liner and can be washed and reused, so they do not end up in the nappy landfill.
How You Can Minimise Your Impact
There is a carbon emissions cost to moving away from disposable nappies. Washing reusable nappies and drying them creates slightly more carbon emissions compared to the lifecycle emissions of disposable nappies.
According to an Environment Agency report published in 2008, over two and half years, 20kg more carbon is emitted when reusable nappies are washed at 60C, with one in four loads dried in a tumble drier.
However, there are steps you can take to balance this and put reusable nappies ahead. You can wash nappies in full or fuller loads, use an energy-efficient washing machine, air dry nappies, and pass on your reusable nappies to a second child if your family grows.
The cons of disposable nappies:
- Waste - Nappies degrade gradually over hundreds of years in landfills, emitting more than 600kg of methane gas per baby. Furthermore, the nappies and the packing they are sold in contain plastic, eventually polluting waterways.
- Resources - The manufacturing process of disposable nappies uses large volumes of water, oil, trees, and electricity.
- Stock - Space is taken in cupboards, and constant shopping is required, filling the boot of your car or making public transport a hassle.
- Cost - The cost of disposable nappies for a baby’s lifetime usage equals approximately £800.
The pros of reusable nappies:
- Waste - Reusable nappies do not add to the country’s landfill problem.
- Cost - The lifetime cost of nappying your baby is significantly less, and you will only need twenty to thirty reusable nappies for the entire nappying period of your baby.
- Incentives - Many district councils offer vouchers, cashback, or trial kits for those who opt for eco-friendly nappies.