Disposable Diapers vs Cloth: Carbon Footprint

We did the cloth diaper thing for a while and I was happy to do my own little part for the environment, but as soon as I realized how poorly cloth diapers performed compared to disposables, we switched. Now it seems that using cloth nappies might not be as environmentally friendly (in regards to greenhouse gas emissions) as everybody assumed: Blow to image of ‘green’ reusable nappy

“A government report that found old-fashioned reusable nappies damage the environment more than disposables has been hushed up because ministers are embarrassed by its findings…
…The report found that while disposable nappies used over 2½ years would have a global warming , impact of 550kg of CO2 reusable nappies produced 570kg of CO2 on average. But if parents used tumble dryers and washed the reusable nappies at 90C, the impact could spiral to . 993kg of CO2 A Defra spokesman said the government was shelving plans for future research on nappies.”

I guess the thing to remember is that the carbon footprint is only a part of the total environmental impact.

7 thoughts on “Disposable Diapers vs Cloth: Carbon Footprint

  1. Wouldn’t it be cool if people read the full report before quoting poor quality journalism – the study actually says that the environmental impact of cloth can be up to 40% better/less than disposables if they are washed in full loads, unded 60 degrees C, line dried and reused on another kid.

  2. Well, let’s see if we can make a “greener” version of washing soiled diapers:
    You can hand wash and rinse them in cold water, saving energy consumption all together, and transferring the externalities (environmental impacts) to water consumption and sewage generation plus the costs that come with the manufacture, use, and disposal of the reusable diapers. To further green up the process, you might use homemade detergents or cleansers from plants grown in your backyard garden. Ideally, you could sterilize the sewage, and use the grey water and particulates to fertilize your yard, thus reducing your waste to a minimum.
    How many people, even those that choose to minimize their inputs are willing to wash spent diapers in cold water? How many people have the time to make their own detergent, and to process their waste so that it can be cycled into their gardens? Not many.
    I think the point is that if something does not make sense economically (speaking about time and money), and if something is not convenient, it will likely not be adopted.
    People are lazy. Most people I know choose to dry their clothes in a drying machine powered by natural gas. How many people in the US still use clothes lines to dry their laundry?
    I wouldn’t assume that people didn’t read the full report, rather that this post is not a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis about reusable vs. disposable diapers. That would be interesting to see though…

  3. Geez, how did this posting attract a sarcastic jibe about a simple news report which is species-specific in nature?
    While I agree that most people are lazy and that we all, in many ways, add to this problem by our over-consumptive behavior and carelessness, I also know many good people are doing their best to improve this situation.
    But as one who has washed out dirty cloth diapers in cold water by hand (YUCK!), made my own soap, sunned diapers on the line (like Jus did),
    I vote for a green diaper combustion machine which converts said diapers and those dog poop bags into environmentally supportive green products, like dog toys. Hey, my pups used to eat their own S___, and they lick their butts 24 times a day! That’s why I don’t let them lick my face!! YUCK.

  4. Elle, almost everything you state after your initial flame is also in the linked article (it’s referred to as an “extreme approach to laundering.” If you’d like to leave a more constructive comment next time, you’re certainly welcome..

  5. Interesting perspective, but simply on the basis of landfills and economic savings. Cloth diapers are far better than disposables. The study forgot to mention the fact of fuel emissions going to and from the super market to buy diapers.

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