green babies | 30th Aug, 2012

Give reusable nappies a go!

You're on this web page so you must be curious about reusable nappies. We would encourage you to give them a go. We know that new parents have a lot of stress to deal with and can often feel judged about their choices - we certainly don’t want to add to that. You might prefer to wait till your baby is a couple of months old before trying reusables.

Why avoid disposables?

There are plenty of great reasons to avoid disposable nappies and use reusable nappies if you can:

  • Each baby in disposable nappies sends 700kg of waste to landfill every year, where it sits, leaching toxic chemicals, for a very long time.
  • It takes more water to manufacture a disposable nappy than it takes to launder a cloth nappy
  • There is also the packaging and transport of disposables to consider.
  • You can spend between $2,500 and $4,000 on disposable nappies per child.
  • You can set yourself up with all the modern cloth nappies you need for a child for around $200 to $300 if you buy them new (you could spend up to $700 if you go all out). There are plenty offered second hand through informal networks as well as online sites and forums.
Health, comfort and looks!
  • Disposables aren’t as healthy or comfortable as breathable fabrics. And modern cloth nappies look fabulous! They come in all sorts of cute and colourful designs.
Modern cloth nappies are more effective and easier to use than the old fashioned cloth nappies
  • There’s no need to use safety pins, most use Velcro or snaps.
  • Most require no folding – they’re shaped just like disposables.
  • They are just as absorbent.
  • A lot of them are modular so the outer coverings can be re-used and this reduces total washing.
  • There’s no need for bleach if you’re line drying, though they will discolour eventually.
  • Once you’re in the habit, washing them is really not much of a drama.
  • A weekly nappy wash service is a great option and usually works out at about the same cost as disposables. However these days these services are hard to find.

Choosing reusable nappies

There are heaps of different types and brands to choose from and there are a lot of factors to consider: cost, convenience, washing and drying times, absorption, fit for boys and girls and through different ages and stages.

There is so much information available online that it is almost overwhelming. You may find it easier and quicker to talk to knowledgeable nappy shop staff about options that will suit you and your situation. EnviroShop stock a range of eco-friendly nappies, which you can purchase online. There are also reusable nappy advocacy and support organisations such as the Australian Nappy Network.

So what’s the downside?

  • Babies can’t sit in soiled nappies as long because the cloth isn’t as good at sucking away the moisture as the plastic. So you will need to change them more often.
  • When you’re out and about you need to bag up and carry dirty nappies rather than dropping them in a bin.
  • They are bulkier and this needs to be factored in when fitting clothes over them.
  • Some childcare services will only use disposable nappies – but this is changing so it’s worth talking to your care provider.

This is not an all or nothing deal.

  • You might like to use disposables at first and ease yourself in to reusables when your baby is a bit bigger and you have more energy.
  • Some parents continue to use disposables at night to help their babies sleep through.
  • You could always have some bags of disposables handy for when you are travelling about or want to dress up in leggings, etc.

Beware of greenwashing

Fake green: With a growing interest in sustainability, some companies have started increasing their green marketing without actually making their product greener. Some disposable nappies are filled with more fluff pulp to increase the percentage of “biodegradability” when they still include plastics which wont biodegrade. Some have started marketing that they use non-chlorine bleach, when in fact all nappies use this as a standard.

Bio-degradables don’t always break down in landfill: Some disposable nappies are marketed as being bio-degradable, but they do not biodegrade in landfill. If you were to compost these at home you would need to rip off the plastic liners and plastic tabs first, as these don’t break down, and only compost the internal fluff pulp. Composting pooey nappies isn’t recommended for safety reasons.