There are three main reasons most people decide to make the switch to cloth diapers: saving money, health benefits, and environmental impact. We discussed the money savings as well as the health benefits of cloth, so now we are going to talk about the environmental aspect of cloth diapering
versus disposables diapers.
Many of you have probably seen the cloth vs. disposable impact study done by a London-based agency. The Life Cycle Analysis was conducted by the Environment Agency and concluded that “there was no significant difference between any of the environmental impacts of the disposable, home use reusable and commercial laundry systems that were assessed.” Pampers, Huggies, along with most other disposable diaper companies like to quote this statement on their websites to “prove” that disposables are not as bad for the environment as you should think. So what if they sit in a landfill for hundreds of years, cloth uses much more water!
However, what they aren’t showing is exactly what the study itself showed. In the study, it showed that the LOWEST impact disposable diaper users and the HIGHEST impact cloth users could in fact overlap. Therefore, their conclusion was that neither one is preferred. The statement that they made that neither is preferred would lead you to believe that all of the diapers tested approximately the same. This was not the case though! Only those individuals who used high impact cloth diapers (37% of the 183 cloth diaper families surveyed used relatively high-impact terry nappies not commonly used in the U.S.) and had poor laundering practices overlapped with disposables. Also the number of cloth vs. disposable families surveyed was not comparable- 2,000 parents using disposable diapers were questioned. Only 183 parents using reusable diapers were surveyed. They also did not survey any families that used low impact prefolds and covers (the most popular form of cloth diapering). There is one good thing about this study though. It shows that as a cloth diapering family YOU have the ability to determine the environmental impact of your diapering unlike a disposable diapering family.
So what are the facts? Let’s look at a couple of different areas.
Landfills: We know that one child will create approx. 2 tons of diaper waste when using disposable diapers. That is two tons of waste that will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. “In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste!.” That is a lot of garbage!
Non-renewable resources: Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR. Yes, cloth diapers must be produced as well. However, they are produced ONE time and can be used over and over again even through multiple children!
Water and Energy Consumption: All these diapers must be manufactured. When you are manufacturing a diaper to the tune of two tons per child there is bound to be some energy and water consumption! The Landbank Consultancy Report, showed that 2.3 times more water was wasted in the manufacture of disposables as well as 3.5 times as much energy!
In conclusion, cloth diapers have been proven the best choice for the environment, for you babies precious bottom, and for your wallet.