Are cloth nappies greener, healthier and cheaper?
By Laura Finnegan BScVeterinary Medicine , MSc Animal Epidemiology, PGCFE
Any human activity impacts the environment in different ways, common effects include decreased water quality, increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of natural resources and contribution to global climate change. Some of these are the direct result of our human activities, whereas others are secondary effects of our actions.
Scientists fear that if we don’t reduce our human impact on the environment, we might end up having undesirable outcomes on our local or on the global environment, that could not be reverted, therefore there is a need to look for sustainable actions, to help lessen our effect on the environment.
A sustainable action can be defined as one that aims to reduce the impact on the environment by reducing carbon dioxide emission, waste and consumption of natural resources.
As part to this year’s Reusable Nappy Week, I decided to look for factual information on the benefits of cloth nappies, so you could make an informed choice when deciding between disposables and washable nappies.
This has not been an easy task as little research has been carried out to highlight this kind of information. Sadly, most of the few “scientific” paper that support the use of disposable nappies have clear biased information, as the paper has been supported by the very same people in charge of the commercial operation of disposable products.
After long hours of researching the internet, I was able to find interesting information regarding to the impact of disposable nappies on the environment that I haven’t seen or read before.
Based on these published data, I have calculated the amount of renewal and non-renewal resources that are needed, for both, disposables and cloth nappies. All calculations were carried out based on the 5500 nappies that the NHS estimates is the average number of disposable nappies used per baby from birth to potty training. According to the NHS, in the UK most toddlers are potty trained at 30 months of age and by the age of 36 months, 9 out of 10, are dry during the day.
For the purpose of this calculation the amount of cloth nappies was paired with the number of disposable nappies, as we know that although disposables marketing statements say that disposables nappies will last up to 12 hours, no parents, with the right advice, should keep a baby whether on disposables or reusable nappies with the same nappy on, unless is during sleeping time at night time.
The results of my calculations are presented in this table:
With this information in mind, I can happily say that when you choose cloth nappies you are really choosing a sustainable product which will have a better outcome for us all. Cloth nappies lessen the impact on the environment on many ways, therefore they are greener!
The next point I wanted to check was, are they evidences of being healthier? The disposable industry comments on the benefits of a dryer babies and constantly invites parents to keep babies in the same nappy for 12 hours with strong commercial marketing strategies.
Again little “scientific” researches have been carried out, however there a large number of parents who have found an answer for their baby’s nappy rash by simply switching to cloth. For many people, like myself, cloth is the only way to control our children constant rash with disposables. There is a very famous research carried out in Bristol, which at least has demonstrated that there is no differences between presenting nappy rash with disposables or cloth nappies, contrary to disposable nappies manufacturers, however I was very lucky in coming across with an interesting peer reviewed research report where it was found that nearly 70% of babies that wore only disposables, presented nappy rash, follow by over 30% in babies with a combination of disposables and cloth and less than 2% in babies who wore full time cloth nappies.
It will be wrong to say that cloth nappies eliminate nappy rash altogether, but if this problem can be lessened, I can also say with gusto, cloth nappies are healthier for your baby’s delicate skin.
Please note, that my comment is only based on facts regarding the presence of nappy rash, but once reading the “ingredients” in a disposable nappy, I certainly feel quite guilty for having to use disposable with my daughter when she had to attend Day Care Nursery! But I am sure this will be another exhaustive search for reliable info that I need to carry out in the near future!
Finally, it is a fact that cloth nappies are cheaper. Just to follow my decision to support my comments I calculated the cost of disposables in the UK with information provided by the Money Saving Expert website.
This website states that the average cost of disposable nappies for 30 months is £1,075. 00, I have added £62.00 Nappy tax (to collect nappies) and £275.00 to the tax payers (5 p per nappy, some people argue that it cost up to 10p per nappy) to dispose each nappy.
Putting all these number together with have a grand total of £1412.00. When compared with 30 Ecopipo® cloth nappies One size pockets at £13.99 ea. = £419.70 plus £91.00 for laundry, we can say that although some parents think they are expensive, in the long run, they only cost £510.00, which is nearly a third of the cost of disposables.
With Ecopipo® cloth nappies you could save £902 or up to £2, 314.00, If you use them for a second baby.
In conclusion I am really happy to be able to present this info that clearly shows that cloth nappies are greener, healthier and cheaper! I agree completely with this statement I once read: “ Every action that contributes to better sustainability is helpful no matter how unimportant it may seem”
Ecopipo® cloth nappies…changing nappies…changing habits!
Biranjia-Hurdoyal SD and Pandamikum L.: A Study to Investigate the Prevalence of Nappy Rash among Babies Aged 0 to 36 Months Old in a Tropical Country. Austin J Dermatolog. 2015; 2(2): 1040. http://austinpublishinggroup.com/dermatology/fulltext/ajd-v2-id1040.php
Canter L: The Guardian 4th July 2015. Last modified on Wed 29 Nov 2017 15.07 GMThttps://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/jul/04/nappies-which-best-disposables-reusables-cost-ethics
Erdas Reducing the Human Impact on the Environment: Recycling, Green Living, Sustainability (2011)
Hickmann, L.: It won’t wash Ethical and Green Living. The Guardian online (2015) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2005/may/20/environment.ethicalliving
Lehrburger C., Mullen J., Jones C.V., “Diapers: Environmental impacts and lifecycle analysis”, The National Association of Diaper Services, 1991. http://infohouse.p2ric.org/ref/30/29640.pdf
Meseldzija, J., Poznanovic, D., & Frank, R.: Assessment of the differing environmental impacts between reusable and disposable diapers. Dufferin Research (November 2013) http://www.dufferinresearch.com/images/sampledata/documents/Environmental%20Impact%20Report%20-%20Cloth%20vs%20Disposible.pdf
Nappy cost on What Pric£ “The Price Sharing Community” http://www.whatprice.co.uk/health/parent/nappies.html#axzz59MXI8EKk
NHS: Your pregnancy and baby guide. (2015) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/potty-training-tips/
Philipp R, Hughes A, Golding J: Getting to the bottom of nappy rash. ALSPAC Survey Team. Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood. Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol. PMID: 9302788, UI: 97448380) Br J Gen Pract 1997 Aug;47(421):493-7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9302788
Studman, A: How to buy the best disposable nappies? (2018) https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/nappies/article/how-to-buy-the-best-disposable-nappies