Green Baby News – The Nappy Question

According to 2003 figures from the Women’s Environment Network, it takes on average 22,250 MJ of energy, 75,000 ha of land for raw materials and 70 cubic metres of waste water is needed to manufacture enough disposable nappies for just one infant over the course of 2.5 years. Meanwhile, Jannine Barron, founder of Nature’s Child, an online retail store for natural and organic baby products, estimates that disposables can cost a family more than $3500 per child.

Cloth nappies also have a substantial impact due to the amount of water and resources it takes to launder them. A UK study done by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) indicated that under ‘average’ conditions, a traditional cloth nappy had a greater environmental impact of 570 kg when compared to a disposable nappy that they measured to have an impact of 550 kg. The study highlights ‘the importance of laundry choices for re-usable nappies in cutting their impact,’ said a spokesperson from DEFRA.

The study assumed that only three quarters of nappies were line dried and the remainder were tumbled in a drier. Washing nappies in fuller loads or line-drying them outdoors all the time was found to reduce impact by 16 per cent. The nappies were also assumed to be used on only one child when re-using nappies for a second child reduces the impact by another 24 per cent.
Meanwhile, modern innovations have taken nappy production to new heights. Many varieties of eco-friendly nappies are now available, such as Weenees disposable eco-pads or Eco-bots, a disposable nappy endorsed by Planet Ark, which use bio-degradable wood pulp and modified corn starch bioplastics.

The Dirty Lowdown on Disposable Nappies

Consider these sizable facts on disposable nappies:

• Nappies are the third most common item, by volume and weight, in American, UK, European, Japanese and Australian landfills.

• According to Choice consumer magazine, 95 per cent of Australian babies wore disposable nappies in 2007. In China, only 6 per cent do; in India, 2 per cent.
• It takes over 10 full sized trees to produce the number of nappies your baby will use in its first couple of years.

• Production of a single disposable nappy requires 2/3 of a cup of petroleum. This adds up to over 3 billion gallons (1134 billion litres of oil) per year dedicated to disposable nappy production.

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