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


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Towelling Diapers

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

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Where did the idea for disposable diapers originate?

Where did the idea for disposable diapers, also called nappie, originate?

It is not many years ago that cloth diapers or nappies were the “in” thing. In fact, it was the cloth nappy, in the last century, that was the best solution for babies before the disposable nappy arrived on the scene.  Prior to this plastic pants coverings were introduced and used widely.  A real disposable diaper was not available until during the second world in the 1940’s but was a luxury item that few could afford.

For thousands of years, folks had to deal with the excretions from babies in other ways. In Elizabethan times a cloth type of diaper was used however infrequently it was changed. Animal skins, linen and leaves are some of the ways used to help with this situation whilst some babies in tropical environments never had ancient diapers at all because they were mostly naked!

In the early 1800’s the history of nappies began. When the pioneers in the US pushed westward in covered waggons, mothers made all their children’s diapers, carefully rolling and hand-stitching the edges. Wet diapers were seldom washed, just hung by the fireplace to dry. However, individuals started to realise the importance of diapers in protecting furniture, and more importantly, their baby’s skin. Soon, cloth diapers began improving somewhat, as well as the hygiene.

The first all-cotton diapers were made in America. The first disposable absorbent pad used as a diaper was made from unbleached creped cellulose tissue (held in rubber pants) in 1942. Cloth diapers were still used of course, and in 1946, a woman named Marion Donovan, invented the “Boater”, a waterproof covering for cloth diapers.

I personally, can remember soaking my babies cloth nappies in solutions like Nappysan for hygiene and to try to eliminate the staining on the nappy. It was an odour some task as many will remember! I also used the waterproof covering which often made chafe marks on the babies legs, It wasn’t until about the year 2000 that the safety plastic diaper pin was introduced although metal safety pins were in use prior.

In the 1950’s there was another big change with the diaper debate. A Mrs Hellerman, the owner of a diaper service in Milwaukee went to the Kendall Company, which made Curity brand diapers, with a new invention. It was a fold that put extra cotton layers in the centre of the diaper and made it the right size for most babies. The fold was sewn shut, and the pre-folded diaper was born.

With new technology, the history of diapers only continued to improve throughout the 80s and 90s with lighter and more absorbent fabrics and even cute designs started to appear. Today, diapers are becoming more comfortable, thinner, and environmentally sound. It appears the progress with the disposable diaper industry and the convenience of organic biodegradable diapers has moved rapidly with both parents now needing to go to work.

When comparing today’s diapers with ancient diapers, or even cloth diapers, one can see a major difference. Yet nappies still continue to change. The history of nappies looks as if it will continue on forever.

Best Biodegradable Disposable Diapers/

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Disposable diapers are a relatively recent invention. Up until the early 1970’s mothers had no real alternative to classic cloth nappies.

Biodegradable, environmentally friendly, disposable diapers consist of an absorbent pad placed between two sheets of a porous non-woven fabric-like material made from long fibres, eg felt, which are used as an alternative to polyurethane products.

Non-woven materials are used in numerous applications from Baby and Adult nappies and wipes to tea bags, Hepa filtration and erosion control just to mention a few.

The absorbent Pad:

The single most important property is its ability to absorb and retain moisture. Today’s state-of-the-art eco disposable diapers absorb 15 times it weight in fluid.

Environmental Impact:

Disposable diapers have a significant impact on the environment, particularly when you consider 90% of babies use disposable diapers.  The impact of millions of disposable nappies going into landfills is enormous!

The following information we believe to be factual:

Traditional disposable diapers do not degrade well due to plastic material used plus the lack of exposure to light and air which is essential for the process.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 20-22 billion disposable baby diapers end up in landfill each year!

A percentage of disposable diapers contain faeces which presents a bio-hazard in itself and may seep into the ground water. To avoid this it is suggested using diaper liners.

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