Are disposable diapers biodegradable?

Are disposable diapers biodegradable?

Most diapers are not biodegradable. In fact, most diapers in use today are not eco-friendly. A typical disposable diaper will take 200 to 500 years to fully decompose although nobody really knows since no disposables have been in a landfill that long!

Understandably most people think it would be a good thing for nappies to biodegrade in landfill sites. Disposable nappies are certainly more biodegradable than they were and an unused nappy is around 50 per cent biodegradable, whereas a used one is on average 80 per cent biodegradable.

So Are Disposable Diapers Biodegradable?

A lot of manufacturers of disposable diapers will not publish fully what materials the diapers are composed of and like plastic bags, they do not decompose readily. This leaves a legacy to your children’s grandchildren. “The production of disposables uses 3.5 times more energy, 8.3 times more non-renewable resources, and 90 times more renewable resources than real nappies”  the BBC News on Health issues urging the public to promote washable nappies. More disposable nappies are found in UK household waste than anything else which is quite scary really.

A Looming Environmental Threat:

The Independent News on the environment pointed out that disposable diapers were a looming environmental threat to the planet. Mothers in many third world countries have managed very well without disposable nappies. But what if a big marketing campaign was to succeed then it could spell disaster for the environment.

How do mothers survive without disposable diapers?

In India, for example, parents use cloth diapers or leave their babies bottoms bare. The mother is usually at home, staying with the baby, rarely leaving the home which makes the practicalities of toilet care easier. As soon as the baby defecates the mum cleans it up. When nappies are used they are usually made from old clothes from family and friends. I can well imagine the concept of a disposable diaper, which holds urine as well as faeces close to babies genitals, could be perceived as unclean and would encourage diaper rashes and the like.

In China, toddlers wear split pants, so as the child can defecate when he or she needs to. Split pants have been popular in China for decades and can be seen being used in rural areas today. Throw away products would be rejected as a waste of money. But big producers of disposable products want to change all of this. They have set their sights on a massive potential market in low-income countries. The focus is on India and China as these countries contain the largest infant populations combined with a growing middle class.

It was estimated about 10 years ago that there were over 321 million babies aged under two-and-a-half in the world. If disposable diapers were used on each of these babies and assuming there would be 4.5 diaper changes per day that would mean at least 6,000 tonnes of diapers would be disposed of every day and go into landfills.

The intense marketing pressure of the disposable diaper industry is already reaping benefits. In China alone, annual sales alone are growing by 50% per annum. Whereas in India cultural resistance is stronger.

Diapers – what every parent needs to know


The environment

Your pocket

Shaped Reusables

The environment

Your pocket

Towelling Diapers

The environment

The cheapest option and best for the environment was the towelling Diapers.

I know which ones I would choose.


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