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"Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. "

- Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher & writer

Disposable Diapers and the Environment

By Sharda ten Hove on 17 April 2013

Are you expecting? Will you soon be blessed as a mother or father? If so, have you by any chance given thought to what sort of nappies/diapers you will start using? Or perhaps you already are the parent of a beautiful baby; in that case, have you properly considered the ones you are currently using? You most probably haven’t yet, if you want what is best for your child – and for the world (which you probably do, or you would not be dwelling on this website) –, it may perhaps be worth thinking about.

Disposable Diapers
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government body responsible for regulating and implementing environmental law, disposable diapers comprise 95% of all diapers used in the USA and make up 3.4 million tons of waste. That is 2.1% of all garbage in US landfills.

Most disposable diapers contain the following toxins:
1. Dioxins: Many diapers are bleached (with chlorine) which leaves traces of dioxins. According to the World Health Organization, these are toxic compounds and environmental pollutants, causing various health problems including damaged immunity systems, certain cancers and the obstruction hormones.
2. Sodium Polyacrylate: Also known as waterlock given its properties, Sodium Polyacrylate is a chemical widely used in the production of certain consumer goods, including the absorbent centre in disposable diapers. It is able to absorb and hold great quantities of water – much like sponges – and, unfortunately, is known to cause skin irritation.
3. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Most disposable diapers release VOCs (organic compounds with high vapor pressure and low water solubility), including ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene which, according to the EPA, can cause irritations, headaches, cancers and damage to one’s liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

Biodegradable disposable diapers

More manufacturers now offer biodegradable disposable diapers in response to the negative environmental impact of traditional disposable diapers. However, according California’s Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery, not even these sorts of diapers degrade well in a landfill – plus the production of these diapers requires much resources. The benefits of the biodegradable diaper, relative to most traditional diapers, are that (a) it doesn’t contain the aforementioned chemicals – hence being safer for your baby – and (b) are better for the environment and put slightly less pressure on landfills.

The Solution
Cloth diapers are definitely an option to consider because:
1. They are reusable and therefore have less impact on the environment.
2. Since they can be used repeatedly they are cost saving.
3. They contain no chemicals.
4. They are super soft and comfortable to wear for your baby.
There are collecting diaper services who can come by your house and collect the used diapers, wash them and bring them back to you. Check your local community for your nearest service.

Diaper recycling service.
This is a service that collects used disposable diapers from your home and, through advanced treatment technology, sterilizes the diapers which are then be processed to be recycled and used for various materials.
For UK residents the company nappies2go provides this service.
For other countries please have a look at the following website: www.knowaste.com

If we all participate in creating less garbage, we leave a better world for our children – and isn’ t that what every mother wants for her child?



About the author

Sharda ten Hove

Founder, Ethical Vegan, Yogi, Social Activist

Sharda was born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Descended from an Indian mother and Dutch father, she received a multi-cultural upbringing during which she gained a broad perspective on life.…  Read full bio