Real Nappy Week 2014
Forget safety pins and boil washes: why modern reusable nappies deserve mainstream status!
To celebrate the 2014 Real Nappy Week (28th April – 4th May), the Reusable Nappy Association (RNA) is working to dispel the many myths surrounding reusable ("real") nappies to show parents that choosing cloth nappies would benefit both their families and the planet – and all without the hard work some people associate with reusable nappies.
Many parents may think of washable nappies as cumbersome, fixed with safety pins and needing boil washes on the stove, but nappies have come a very long way since terry towelling was the only available choice. Today’s cloth nappies are shaped to fit, elasticated to maximise containment, feature beautiful designs, are made from natural and technical fabrics and are quick and easy to use – without a safety pin in sight. Washing machines take care of the cleaning and eliminate the need for soaking, making reusable nappies no more laborious than – or different from – keeping baby dressed in clean clothes.
Another misconception is that reusable nappies are no better for the environment than disposables. A flawed life cycle report from 2005 was updated in 2008 and showed that reusable nappies come with several environmental benefits: Lower carbon footprint if cared for responsibly and less raw materials used in production. And of course they don't generate the huge amount of waste that throw-away nappies do:
If every UK parent changed to just one reusable nappy a day, this would divert as much as 800 million disposables from landfill over the time the child is in nappies. If you are finding the figure hard to visualise, this amount of waste would fill 5,000 refuse lorries.
Modern reusable nappies are as easy to use as their disposable counterparts and with performance levels to match, the RNA passionately believes that every cloth nappy a parent or carer changes to makes a big difference. A child can go through more than 5,000 disposable nappies from birth to potty training, so even a part-time switch to reusable nappies will have a positive impact.
Key facts about reusable nappies:Reusable nappies are up to 40% better for the environment than disposables in terms of carbon footprint . This figure includes calculations for post purchase laundry of reusables (and assumes washing at 40-60 degrees and predominantly air drying the nappies). However the figure does not take into account the post purchase impact of landfilling disposable nappies. Landfill sites are responsible for around 38% of methane (another greenhouse gas) emissions in the UK.
3 billion disposable nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, making up around 3-4% of all landfill waste . Nobody knows how long they will remain there before breaking down, but estimates suggest it may take several hundred years.
Reusable nappies use significantly less raw materials than disposables: Around 2.7kg for a full time set of reusables as opposed to 120kg for disposables . In the UK alone, the disposables used equate to the consumption of around 90 million kilogram of raw materials. The levels of over-consumption of materials that any disposable product represents is quite simply unsustainable and making even small changes towards reducing this impact must be encouraged.
Reusable nappies save parents around £500 (including washing costs) per child compared to the cost of disposables – and what's more, a full set of reusable nappies to last a baby from newborn to potty training can cost as little as £200.