Thursday, 5 February 2015

Why I like to use cloth nappies

Before I had Turtle I was determined to put her into reusable or cloth nappies.  Mainly because I wanted to make less waste that would end up landfill.

Newborns can use up to 12 nappies each day and when babies are a bit older they might go through 6-8.  Most babies wear nappies until they are two or three years of age.  Each child is therefore likely to go through at least 4,000 - 5,000 nappies.  That is a lot of waste.  I would love to see a pile of 4,000 - 5,000 nappies on display somewhere to fully comprehend how much waste is going into landfill for each baby.

The pouch style of nappy that we used for Turtle from 3 - 6 months
Interestingly, however, if you read up on the benefits of using cloth nappies you will see that this is a hot topic in the sustainability/environmental area.  The jury seems to be out on whether disposable or cloth nappies are better (or worse!) for the environment. Here is a Choice Magazine review on the topic.  When disposable and cloth nappies have been compared for their environmental performance - the resources used to make them, care and maintenance, and requirements for disposal and eventual degradation - there has been no clear winner.  The environmental costs of the different nappies are summarised well in this link

Despite this debate I cannot believe that using disposables could ever be more environmentally friendly than using cloth.  Not that I'm judging anyone who chooses (or needs!) to use disposables.  Having a baby is hard work and you have to do what works for you.  There are some biodegradable disposable options available as an alternative too.   We use these when we go out for long periods, and also for night time sleeps since Turtle was 6 months old and was wetting through the cloth.  I choose to use mainly cloth because it is a much better fit with my values and, with the support of Mr Fix It, we have managed to make it work for us.

We used the sized style of nappy for a few months (6-10 months) before moving to a one size style that grows with Turtle
Cloth nappies are washed every day or two while in use.  For the sake of comparing their performance to disposables it is presumed that cloth nappies are washed in hot water and then dried in a clothes dryer.   Since we live in Perth it is warm for most of they year so nappies dry quickly on the line and there is no need to use a clothes dryer.  This reduces the energy needed to wash our nappies, which improves their environmental performance.

Another way to improve the environmental performance of cloth is to use them on more than one baby.  Each time that you use the nappies for a new baby it doubles the environmental performance.  I have bought almost all of my nappies secondhand so even if we don't end up having a second baby I know that this has reduced the environmental impact from Turtle's nappies.  It has also saved us money since the nappies are cheaper secondhand.  I resell the nappies that we don't need (when Turtle has grown out of them or when we find another style that we prefer) so they can be used again by other families. 

I am really glad that we have made the effort to use cloth nappies (we use modern cloth nappies or MCN) on Turtle.  Don't get me wrong, it's added to our daily tasks since we tend to wash a load of nappies most days but I feel good that we have been able to do it.

Do you feel strongly about the kind of nappies you use on your little one(s)? Are you also concerned about the waste nappies cause?

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