From birth to potty, a baby can use up to five thousand disposable nappies. This is the automatic option for most parents as they are seen to be cheap and convenient. Other parents are becoming more concerned about the environmental costs of disposable nappies and are looking for real alternatives.
In the UK, we throw away eight million disposable nappies every day, or two hundred million each year in Wales alone. This adds up to a ‘nappy mountain’ of 800,000 tonnes each year. 14,000 tonnes of plastics are produced from non-renewable crude oil each year to make nappies. These can take up to five hundred years to decompose, clogging up our land-fill sites. £40 million of tax-payers money is spent by local authorities each year to collect and dispose of nappies.
Cloth nappies have moved on a long way from those that granny will remember: leaking terry-towelling nappies fastened by pins that needed hours of boil-washing. Modern fitted cloth nappies and laundry services take the strain off busy parents and can be a reasonable financial alternative to disposable nappies. Most of the modern waterproof covers are made from breathable materials. Organic cotton nappies are readily available too.
Modern cloth nappies come in four main styles: shaped with a waterproof cover, waterproof all-in-ones, ‘stuffable’ nappies that require a cotton pad and flat nappies which are folded into a pad then put into a cover. The latter is the most economical option but takes a bit longer to put on a wriggling baby!
There are several ‘systems’ for flat nappies, but mainly follow the same method, with weekly laundry collections/deliveries from your home. Firstly, a piece of absorbent cotton cloth is folded into a rectangular pad. Secondly, a liner is put over this pad to act as a barrier. Finally, the pad and liner are placed in a pant-style ’wrap’ with Velcro or poppers. When a nappy is changed, the bio-degradable liner and mess goes down the toilet. The cotton pad is put in a bin to be collected and the wrap can be washed in your own washing machine. There is no greater risk of nappy rash than from using disposable nappies.
Real Nappy Week
This year’s Real Nappy Week, 20-26 June 2005, is the ninth annual week to focus on disposable nappy waste and cloth nappy alternatives. The Real Nappy Campaign and the Women’s Environmental Network co-ordinate the national campaign week. They bring together councils, health boards, local campaign groups and parents to promote practical alternatives to disposable nappies.
Powys County Council and other local authorities in Wales will be celebrating Real Nappy Week with a series of ‘Nappuccino’ events. New parents and mums to be will be invited to their local ‘Nappuccino’ for refreshments and a chance to find out more information about using reusable nappies. There will also be lots of other information and promotions especially designed for parents with young children.