Cloth vs. disposable
The debate of cloth versus disposable really took off when a controversial 1998 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found the environmental impact of both kinds of diapers to be similar. This is due to the energy and materials spent making diapers and in the cleaning/disposing of them. Time has passed, but critics remain divided.
Both kinds of diapers have their benefits, and both can be used irresponsibly. It’s up to you, parent!
Environmental impacts of diapers
- Quantity: The average American family, using disposable diapers, is likely to go through more than 2,500 diapers in the first year. In the U.S. alone, some 27.4 billion disposable diapers are thrown away each year resulting in diapers making up some 2% of all garbage generated in the U.S.
- Quality: Not all disposable diapers are created equal. They can contain petroleum-based ingredients, toxic dyes, and chlorine, among many other potentially hazardous materials. These materials are bad for the environment, not to mention bad for baby. We recommend seeking out a diaper made of eco-friendly materials, like Bambo Nature diapers.
Many disposable diapers are not designed to be compostable, meaning that when thrown away they can sit in landfills for many, many years. Diapers are also primarily made using paper products, and so can be a contributor to deforestation.
- Cleaning process: Washing most reusable diapers requires a lot of water, and drying them in a machine takes a lot of energy. There are diaper services which wash lots of diapers at once to conserve water. However, the petroleum used while picking up and delivering the diapers can sometimes undo the environmental gains of the service.
- Manufacturing: Despite the number in landfills, 95% of the damage to the environment from diapers comes during the sourcing of materials and manufacturing of the final consumer product. Frustratingly, buying a diaper made with natural materials won’t mean much if the process used to make them wasn’t sustainable.
In your search for a compostable, disposable diaper made with natural materials using a sustainable process…and goodness that is a lot to search for…Ovia recommends the superb Bambo Nature diapers. Bambo Nature diapers are easily the most eco-friendly diaper in the world.
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