Plenty of new parents are concerned about the environmental impact that their baby products have, and are making conscious efforts to use products that are good for the environment. In fact 31% of the 382 new parents we surveyed for our 2015 disposable nappy customer satisfaction survey admitted that they feel guilty for using disposable nappies (that said, 64% said that they rate convenience and price over environmental friendliness when choosing disposable nappies).
When it comes to environmentally friendly nappies, you have two options: cloth nappies, and eco-disposables.
According to statistics quoted on a New Zealand council website, there are approximately 145,000 babies in NZ in nappies, and if every baby had just one cloth nappy change per day, this would prevent 1,000,000 disposables from going to land fill every week in New Zealand.
Another issue with regular disposable nappies is the impact of their manufacturing. They require huge amounts of pulp and paper (from trees), as well as plastics, some chemicals, and a lot of water and energy.
As well as using thousands of litres of water, the contribution to energy and waste pollution is massive, as is the cutting down of forests to make the paper and pulp; this is not a sustainable process.
So, what are other nappy options?
Biodegradable nappies are disposable, but have less impact on the environment in terms of production and breakdown.
Generally, they are made out of bamboo or recycled paper pulp, meaning that the nappy is compostable, and will biodegrade in a landfill faster than a regular disposable nappy.
Manufacturers of biodegradable disposables commit to lessening their environmental impact in the manufacturing process by sourcing their materials from sustainable suppliers, and use environmentally conscious methods that use less water and energy.
In addition, they claim not to not use chemicals in manufacturing, and use less plastic. This makes them more suitable for babies with sensitive skin, as the materials are more breathable (this also reduces nappy rash)
Reusable nappies can be made from a variety of organic materials; most commonly they are made from cotton, wool, hemp, or bamboo. Because these materials don’t require chemicals to grow, they are better for the environment, and also for baby.
As well as being chemical free, there are other benefits to cloth nappies. For one, they are less expensive compared to disposables, and also provide better absorption than the average disposable.
With reusable cloth nappies, there is also the opportunity for waste to go into the sewer system rather than into the garbage and landfill (where bad bacteria can seep into the ground and groundwater, leading to contamination).
There are many types of reusable nappies ranging from flat cloth nappies to new, modern bamboo cotton nappies with absorbent insert.
The ultimate nappy decision
Both reusable and disposable nappies have their pros and cons, whether it is convenience or environmental impact. Ultimately, it is best to have both types on hand, as they are better in different situations.
If you are sending your baby to day care, use disposables; then at times when you are home with them, maybe reduce your environmental impact by using reusable cloth nappies.