The zero waste living movement is growing. It’s an admirable aspiration but much of the western world has been so indoctrinated to live conveniently, to support global companies making disposable products, that eliminating waste seems genuinely impossible. Single use plastic lined coffee cups, single use plastic drinks bottles, single use plastic shopping bags and single use plastic straws are common culprits in the pollution of our oceans and destination landfill. Another critical offender is the single use disposable nappy, answering a basic human need but disastrously polluting our planet as it does so. This is why I’ve converted to reusable nappies for my second child.
Yes, disposables have a high convenience factor and they seem like a sanitary way to be rid of human waste but with an estimated 2.5-3 billion of them being disposed of in the UK each year their contribution to landfill is considerable. And they take an estimated 200-500 years to decompose. Every disposable nappy ever put into landfill is still there.
I acknowledge that reusables are not a perfect solution. Sceptics highlight increased household emissions as a result of the frequent high temperature washing and tumble drying required, claiming an equivalent detriment to the environment as using disposables. However, I’ve found washing at 40º (not 60º) to be sufficient – no rashes, stinks or staining – and do not tumble dry. This helps keep our household carbon footprint under control.
I’m convinced that I’m doing the right thing for my planet and my family. The initial outlay for cloth nappies can seem hefty but the second hand market is alive on Facebook and I’ve bought very little that is new; I’m definitely saving money compared to the discounters own brand disposables I liked for my oldest and I’m reducing packaging waste by buying second hand. I’m washing my nappies as ethically as I can: full loads, low temperatures and air drying. I’m making steps towards a zero waste lifestyle by questioning social norms.
Please consider giving cloth nappies a go. There’s a lot to consider but a good place to start in the UK is ‘Go Real!’