If you have (or are soon to have) a child in diapers, remember that there are great alternatives to those big packages of disposable diapers that everyone seems to use. Did you know that almost 20 billion plastic diapers get thrown into landfills each year, and studies estimate that they each can take up to 500 years to decompose? That’s a lot of unnecessary trash that we could all do without…never mind the groundwater that gets contaminated with the petroleum in the diapers and the run-off from the fecal matter. Plus, it takes around 3.4 billion gallons of oil and over 200,000 trees a year to make disposable diapers for American babies alone. Yikes.
See, disposable diapers are lined with plastic…the elastics, the snaps, the shell – all made from petroleum. Do you really want this rubbing on your child’s body all day and night? Add to that the “magic” gel or powder that supposedly absorbs X amount of times it’s weight in waste – that stuff is normally made from super-absorbent gelling materials (usually sodium polyacrylate) which is “linked to an increase in childhood asthma and a decrease in sperm count among boys.” And how is this for things only getting worse:
Sodium polyacrylate has been linked in the past to toxic shock syndrome, allergic reactions and is very harmful and potentially lethal to pets. Some dyes and dioxin according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is known to cause damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. The (FDA) Food & Drug Administration has received reports that fragrances in disposables caused headaches, dizziness and rashes. Problems reported to the Consumer Protection Agency regarding disposables include, chemical burns, noxious chemical and insecticide odors, babies pulling disposables apart and putting pieces of plastic into their noses and mouth, choking on tab papers and linings, plastic melting onto the skin, and ink staining the skin.
When you use cloth diapers, the waste (water and fecal matter) goes where it is supposed to go – the septic or sewer system, not in the ground somewhere to sit. You buy the diapers once and you wash them. That’s it. You can even line dry them, saving energy at the dryer. They can be used for years without putting any trash into the landfills. Sure, it uses water to wash them, but it is the equivalent of a few flushed toilets a day, which is way less harmful to the environment than toxic and non-biodegradable materials in a landfill. In 2008, an updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies by the UK Environment Agency and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated that reusable diapers can cause significantly less (up to 40%) or significantly more damage to the environment than disposable ones, depending mostly on how parents wash and dry them. That’s a huge difference. You can buy ones made from organic cotton, so you know that no pesticides were used in their creation, and you can wash with biodegradable and non-toxic soaps. There tends to be way less diaper rash with cotton diapers, because parents tend to change kids more often because their waste is not just being partially absorbed and spread around. Plus, there are studies that show that kids who are put in cloth diapers instead of disposables tend to get out of them sooner…because they are interested in getting out of sitting in their own waste!
Using natural diapers instead of disposables also saves you money because you can buy one pack of cloth diapers and use them over and over again. One of the biggest expenses that families have is buying diapers week after week, so this definitely cuts down on that expense. And who couldn’t use to save a few bucks, even if you don’t care about the environment? If you cannot switch entirely to cloth diapers for whatever reason, you can always try the biodegradable diapers from companies like g-Diapers for when you are out in public, which use an underwear-like outside shell and biodegradable inserts.
Plastic disposables use 20 times more raw materials, 3 times more energy, 2 times more water and generate 60 times more solid waste than cloth diapers. Which do you think is the more eco-friendly way to go, reusable cloth or disposable plastic diapers?