In the news discussion continues to take place on climate change and how we can avoid the use of single use plastics. Disposable nappies have come into the spotlight. Ashley Artusa-Barrell, founder of My Son’s Planet, explores the issues.
Disposable nappies are big business.
The disposable nappy industry is literally booming, ‘with sales expected to exceed $71bn next year.’ (The Guardian) They bring convenience for many families around the world however, they also have a huge environmental impact. According to a recent report on nappies by the United Nations Environment Programme, single-use nappies are one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste globally with ‘nearly 3 billion disposable nappies are thrown away in the UK each year.’ (The Guardian)
To tax or not to tax.
According to recent press coverage, the UK Government has been considering implementing a tax on disposable nappies. The headlines ruffled more than a few feathers as, yet again it would hit low income families the hardest. Not even The Nappy Alliance, the organisation that represents cloth nappy brands, actually supports the idea of a tax; ‘Guy Schanschieff, the chair of the group which represents the reusable nappy industry, said it had never argued for a tax or ban because “there is a big enough issue with child poverty in this country already… “The last thing we want is parents having to pay more for disposable nappies, it is about getting access [to reusable ones],” (The Guardian).
Time to spread a little nappiness
I am a co-founder of Cloth Club Weybridge and we loan out cloth nappy trial kits to local families to try cloth nappies for free. Our aim is to ‘spread a little nappiness’ by supporting parents, caregivers, midwives and nurseries in using cloth nappies. In other areas of the country, cloth nappies may also be hired and then exchanged for the next size when required. From this work, and also as a mum to two young children, I know first-hand that as well as to increasing access, increasing awareness and education (improving nappy knowledge) is also critical.
Raising awareness & improving nappy knowledge
Whilst cloth nappies might not suit every family’s lifestyle, they are very adaptable and one thing that is not communicated well in the press is that it does not have to be all or nothing. Some families choose to use them full-time, others part-time with a combination of disposable nappies and others opt to use reusable wipes instead of wet wipes. The goal simply needs to be to help families realise that there are options, support them to do what they can, but most importantly to do what is right for them. Afterall, any nappy or wipe saved from landfill is better than none.
Recent press articles also conjured up outdated images of soaking nappies, endless amounts of washing and drying. In fact, cloth nappies have come on leaps and bounds over the past few decades. There are a variety of ‘nappy systems’ from ready for action ‘All In Ones’, to easy to stuff ‘Pocket nappies’, to fantastic overnight ‘Fitted/Sized nappies’. Absorbency can also be tailored with different materials; hemp and bamboo are high absorbency, cotton which is less so and microfibre the least absorbent. The wash routine is simple too; a rinse wash, followed by a full wash at 60 degrees then line drying. It is estimated that using cloth nappies adds 2-3 washes per week.
Kinder for the planet and the family purse.
As well as being kinder to the planet, cloth nappies are also kinder on the family purse and longer term can help families save money. The estimated cost of disposable nappies, wipes and bags over three years is £1,200 and as The Nappy Gurus say “with nothing to show for it”. By switching to cloth nappies and wipes, families could save £834 over the same timeframe. (The Nappy Gurus). There is also potential to save even more by reselling them when you’re done, as they will be snapped up in one of the numerous Facebook cloth nappy buying and selling groups. The start-up cost of using cloth nappies does tend to be higher and if we want to give families greater access, then the government needs to create a more established UK-wide Nappy Voucher scheme as suggested by The Nappy Alliance (The Guardian).
By boosting awareness and improving nappy knowledge, more families are much more likely to consider making the switch. In turn, they could help to save thousands if not hundreds of thousands of disposable nappies from landfill whilst also saving themselves money too.
Want to help spread a little nappiness?
Why not become a cloth nappy ambassador and improve your nappy knowledge.
- Check out Cloth Nappies – Your Need to Know Guide – My Son´s Planet (mysonsplanet.co.uk)
- Check out the Nappy Gurus’ online demos.
- Organise a dedicated demo for you and your team with your local Nappy Library. You can find your local library here; UK Nappy Network – Home
Check what your local council offers.
- Is there a Nappy Voucher scheme?
- Do they offer trial kits?
- If not, write to your local MP (you can use Write to Them) and council to request that one is established.
Team up with other interested colleagues and get creative
Create an official ‘Cloth Nappy Ambassador’ program within your workplace.
Collaborate with your Local Nappy Library.
- Incorporate nappy knowledge into antenatal classes by discussing different options.
- It can also be discussed when it comes to parents packing their hospital bag.
You might also find this article interesting ‘How to make your hospital bag more sustainable’.
Put up posters on notice boards that families have access to, in baby-change areas or by nappy bins.
- Share with your colleagues and the families that you work with.
If you have any questions get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Ashley Artusa-Barrell
Founder of My Son’s Planet & Co-Founder of Cloth Club Weybridge