Eco Friendly Diapers

It is important to think about eco friendly diapers when it comes to protecting the environment

Until recently, parents really only had two choices for diapers… cloth diapers and disposable diapers.

With the improvements made with wetness retention and the fit of disposable diapers in the 1970s and 1980s, disposable diapers overtook cloth diapers in popularity and they now control approximately 90% to 95% of the diaper market.

The average baby typically goes through 5,000 to 6,000 diapers before they are potty trained.

Many parents concerned about the environmental impact of the diapers their household produces have sought eco friendly diaper options.

Many people believe cloth diapers are considered less harmful to the environment than disposable diapers which have led to a recent resurgence in the popularity of cloth diapers as an eco friendly diaper alternative.

Hybrid diapers have also emerged offering parents an environmentally friendly diaper choice that incorporates character traits of both cloth and disposable diapers.

eco-friendly-diapers-2Even within diaper categories, there can be major differences between manufacturers that can impact the environment and your baby’s health.

No matter what type of diaper you buy, whether it is an eco friendly diaper or not, you should consider the following before making your purchase and look for the most environmentally responsible product within its respective product class:

  • How is this diaper made?
  • How is the diaper intended to be used?
  • How is the diaper to be disposed of?

Disposable Diapers

How are they made?

Disposable diapers have a waterproof exterior made from a non-woven polypropylene (plastic), multiple moisture wicking internal layers with an absorbent inner core.

eco-friendly-diapersThe three main material inputs that go into a disposable diaper are plastics, fluffed wood pulp and SAP (super absorbent polymer).

The manufacturing process can vary widely between disposable diaper producers.

Wherever possible, you should look for disposable diapers that use unbleached wood pulp from sustainable managed forests.

However, the largest environmental impact of disposable diapers is due to the plastic exteriors.

How is the diaper intended to be used?

Disposable diapers are intended to be used once and than thrown away.

How is the diaper to be disposed of?

Once a disposable diaper has been used, the only option is to throw it out.

It is estimated approximately 27 billion disposable diapers are sold every year in the United States resulting in 3.5 million tons of diaper waste going into landfills each year.

The high grade plastic exteriors can take hundred of years to break down in landfills.

Because of this, disposable diapers are considered the least environmentally friendly diaper product available on the market.

The proper disposal method for disposable diapers is to scrape the fecal matter into the toilet before throwing the diaper in the garbage.

In reality, this almost never occurs.

Fecal matter than ends up in landfills can leach into the ground water contaminating water supplies and wetlands in the surrounding area.

Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers have improved significantly over the past decade.

Velcro, buttons and snaps have replaced the traditional pins used to attach cloth diapers making them significantly more user friendly.

How are Cloth Diapers made?

With cloth diapers, there are diaper covers and the cloth diapers themselves.

The diaper covers can be made from a variety of materials, some natural and some synthetic.

It is estimated a baby will use 25 to 30 diaper covers and 50 to 70 cloth diapers before the baby is potty trained.

The environmental impact of the diaper covers will largely depend on the material used and the manufacturing process.

Industrialized cotton is the most common material used for cloth diapers.

Relatively speaking, cotton is a very demanding crop requiring significant amounts of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and watering.

Cotton is often bleached white creating an additional environmental impact.

If you are looking for the most eco friendly diaper choice, whenever possible, you should look for unbleached organic cottons or other materials such as hemp or bamboo for cloth diapers.

However, these materials are considerably more expensive than traditional cotton diapers.

How is the diaper intended to be used?

Cloth diapers are intended to be washable and fully reusable.

When assessing the environmental impact of cloth diapers, it is important to remember the impact of repeatedly washing and drying the diapers.

Look for opportunities to lessen the environmental impact of washing and drying cloth diapers to truly make them an eco friendly diaper.

Use an energy efficient washing machine (Energy Star rated), always have a full load when you run the machine, use eco friendly laundry detergents that will reduce the load on water treatment facilities and hang your diapers to dry to avoid using your dryer.

In addition to the environmental impact of washing and drying cloth diapers, it can take significant time.

A laundry service can save you the time and trouble of washing your diapers.

In addition, laundry services may be able to reduce the water and energy consumption by using more efficient commercial machines.

How is the diaper to be disposed of?

Cloth diapers can often be used for subsequent children extending their useful life.

When a cloth diaper can no longer be used as a diaper, they can be cut up making useful cleaning rags for around the house.

When it comes time to finally dispose of a cloth diaper, a high proportion of the contents will decompose in a landfill.

A synthetic diaper cover will take significantly longer to break down than a natural material diaper cover.

Bamboo Diapers… A Cloth Diaper Option

Though not nearly as well known as cotton cloth diapers, if you are in the market for cloth diapers, you might want to consider bamboo diapers.

Unlike cotton, bamboo requires no fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides to grow.

Bamboo is a renewable resource that grows very quickly.

Click here for additional information on Bamboo Fabric

Bamboo diapers are cool, comfortable and breathable for your baby’s skin.

Bamboo diapers have better moisture absorption than cotton diapers and bamboo has some natural antibacterial properties.

Like a cotton cloth diaper, you will still require an outer cover for a bamboo diaper.

Hybrid Diaper Options

One of the most popular choices in eco friendly diapers today is the gDiaper.

gDiaper stands for green diapers and they consist of a washable cotton diaper cover and a plastic-free toilet flushable diaper refill.

gDiapers are available in Canada and the United States.

How are they made?

The flushable refill is made from cellulose fibers harvested from sustainable softwood plantations.

There are no plastic components in the gDiaper unlike traditional disposable diapers.

The diaper cover is made from cotton.

It is unclear whether industrialized or organic cotton is used for the diaper covers.

gDiapers estimate a child will only require 12 to 16 pairs of ‘little g’ outer covers.

These covers can also be used again on subsequent children.

How is the diaper intended to be used?

The outer cover is fully washable and should be washed as required. The flushable refill is changed once they have been soiled.

How is the diaper to be disposed of?

The flushable refill liner can be separated from the outside cover and flushed down the toilet.

You have to stir the liner in the toilet to help break it up before flushing it down the toilet.

The gDiaper starter kit does include a stir stick to assist with this.

Once the diaper makes its way through your municipal sewage treatment plant, the end result is a biosolid, a safe and rich fertilizer product that can be used in a variety of agricultural settings.

If the flushable liner has only been spoiled with urine (and not feces) you are able to safely add it to your home compost.

It is estimated the liner will take approximately 50 to 150 days to break down.

It is important to note that human feces spoiled liners should always be flushed down the toilet to be properly treated at sewge facilities.

They should never be composted or thrown in the garbage (a major problem with disposable diapers is the feces spoiled diapers are typically thrown in the garbage).

For additional information on gDiapers, an environmentally friendly diaper option.

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