The argument for real nappies

June 4, 2007 at 3:22 am

For many years, no-one has thought twice about using disposable nappies for their babies. Struggling to fold a terry square into some weird and wonderful shape and coping with outsized safety pins was just too much like hard work. Sadly no-one gave a thought to where all these disposable nappies ended up and the damage they were causing to the environment. Now of course, we are more enlightened and with landfill space fast running out we are having to change the way we think about nappies. Eight million disposables a day are thrown away and by the time your child is two and a half you will have used around 6,500 nappies. It is not known how long it will take for the plastic to decompose but it could be hundreds of years.

The alternative is to use real nappies, made from soft breathable fabric (often cotton and sometimes organic) which come in different styles, sizes and even colours and are fastened with poppers or Velcro. Not only do real nappies mean savings in landfill but they also reduce the amount of energy used to produce disposables and all their packaging in the first place. If you don’t want the hassle of washing and drying nappies, there are plenty of special laundry services which will take your dirty nappies away and deliver a fresh supply.

It is certainly in the interests of local authorities to encourage parents to use real nappies; Nottinghamshire Council estimates the cost of sending disposables to landfill sites to be over a million pounds a year. For this reason many councils provide a free sample pack of real nappies or a free trial of a laundry service and some even offer cash incentives. According to the Women’s Environmental Network parents could save up to five hundred pounds by using real nappies and even more if the nappies are reused for subsequent children.

To reduce the environmental impact even more, it is suggested that rather than soaking the nappies in chemicals they should be stored dry in a bucket with a lid until they are washed, you should use a 60 degree wash for the nappies (and 40 degrees for the waterproof wraps) rather than using a maximum temperature wash, eco-friendly washing powder should be used and they should be dried outdoors or on an airer rather than in the tumble drier.

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