Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reusable diapers better for the environment - it’s official!

It is obvious that reusable cloth diapers are better for the environment than disposables, right? Well, a study done back in 2005 determined that the washing and drying of cloth diapers gave cloth diapers a larger carbon footprint than disposable diapers. I personally found this study to be skewed. The calculations were based on commercial washing and drying which is done at a higher heat and uses more energy. Many families who cloth diaper launder their own diapers and many even use HE washing machines. Modern cloth diapers also have a much shorter drying time and use less water. The study also fails to address the landfill issues of disposable diapers. Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste (Link, Ann. Disposable nappies: a case study in waste prevention. April 2003. Women's Environmental Network.) Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp (Armstrong, Liz and Adrienne Scott Whitewash: Exposing the Health and Environmental Dangers of Women's Sanitary Products and Disposable Diapers, What You Can Do About It. 1993. HarperCollins.)

The latest report by the Environment Agency confirms that reusable cloth diapers, if used and laundered according to manufacturer’s guidelines, can reduce the global warming impact of using reusable diapers over disposables by an incredible 40%.* Reusable cloth diapers, if used in an environmentally responsible way, create significantly less environmental impact than disposable diapers. The new report is an update of the Environment Agency’s initial report on the life cycle assessment study for disposable and reusable diapers, which was released in May 2005. The much criticised 2005 report seemed to conclude that there was no significant difference between the environmental impacts of disposable and reusable nappies. Guy Schanschieff, MD of Bambino Mio, Europe’s leading reusable nappy brand and Chair of the UK Nappy Alliance said: “I am delighted that this update has been published to correct the misunderstanding created by the initial report. It confirms that responsible use of reusable nappies would reduce the modern parent’s environmental impact. Many people questioned the 2005 report and this led to the government commissioning this latest update. Reusable nappies are not only better for the environment, as confirmed by this report, but can save parents considerable amounts of money, which is particularly resonant in the present economic climate.” Defra’s findings have apparently been contradicted in the Sunday Times, who have latched on to the report’s findings regarding laundry habits. They state that if parents used tumble dryers and washed the nappies at 90oC the carbon impact could ‘spiral to 993kg of CO2.’ However, most parents wash at more sensible temperatures! * An updated Lifecycle Assessment Study for Disposable and Reusable Nappies, published 17/10/08. Copies of the latest report are available from www.defra.gov.uk

1 comment:

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