picture-1Today’s New Zealand Herald carries a story about a West Auckland maternity hospital, Waitakere Hospital, that has made the switch to modern cloth nappies. This alone will save  80 000 nappies from going to landfill every year. 


New dress code for babies to save planet 

Parents leaving the hospital with their babies will have the choice of hiring a cloth nappy kit at half the usual price, or switching to disposables.

West Auckland Health Services Foundation’s Dr Nicole Bassett said using cloth nappies could cut the household waste of a family with one baby in half.

The foundation and Waitakere City Council decided to switch to cloth nappies after a three-month pilot scheme saved about 20,000 nappies going to landfill.

Dr Bassett said feedback from the pilot scheme showed cloth nappies were not difficult to use and did not cost the hospital significantly more than disposable nappies.

Parents who picture themselves struggling with pins and squares of fabric might be pleasantly surprised at the new breed of cloth nappies. Dr Bassett said modern versions came prefolded in different shapes and sizes and fastened neatly with velcro.


Figures compiled by the Zero Waste New Zealand Trust and used by the Waitakere City Council said disposable nappies used 3.5 times more energy, eight times more non-renewable raw materials, and 90 times more renewable materials than washable nappies.

The figures also showed that it took as much energy to produce one throwaway nappy as it did to wash a cloth nappy 200 times.


Canberra students make and donate MCN to mothers in crisis

Students in the ACT have been bringing cloth nappies and community outreach together.

The Canberra Times reports:

“Nappies that keep saving the planet


“Melba Copland Secondary School students were selling the benefits of their prize-winning reusable nappies when they visited a group of expectant and new mothers this week.

Four members of a textiles class presented 40 hand-made reusable nappies to the residents of Karinya House, a service for mothers in crisis.[…]

Ms Gallagher estimates that eight to 10 disposable nappies are used at the service per baby, a day, at a cost to mothers of about $55 a week.

Reuseable nappies cost as little as $5 to $10 to make at home and about $25 pre-made, which could relieve financial pressure for mothers in all situations.

The school was named a ”Sustainable Living Champion” by a University of NSW competition for making the reusable, adjustable nappies with polar fleece, nylon and bamboo-based fabric as the absorbent material. The teacher responsible for the nappy program, Ketley Merle, said that the products also had environmental benefits, especially when washed with environmentally sound techniques.”

Modern Nappies – The choice is yours. From TNN NZ.

The Nappy Network New Zealand has a press release in Stuff.co.nz today.

Modern Nappies – The choice is yours.

The Nappy Network is about informed choice for parents, not about disposables vs cloth. Of course, we believe modern cloth nappies are better in many ways…or we wouldn’t all be using them! 🙂

There has lately been a revival of the ‘nappy debate’ by Kimberly-Clark, manufacturers of Huggies Disposables. While exposure of the issues is always a good thing, there seems to be a lot of confusion.

The Nappy Network would like to take a bit of spin off the recent Kimberly-Clark media release, and clear up some misinformation:

Kimberly-Clark quote a 2005 UK study by the Environment Agency, which compares the ecological impact of both cloth nappy and disposable manufacturing and use. This study has already been discredited – it was flawed, and bears little relevance to NZ conditions. The Environment Agency itself has admitted the study was flawed and is conducting a review that will hopefully be more true to the facts of modern cloth nappy use in the UK.

Even in its flawed state, it actually DOES show that cloth nappies cause LESS harm to the environment overall. The Life Cycle Analysis results show that both systems use similar amounts of energy but the disposable system uses more materials and puts more into landfill.

Cloth nappies also give parents the choice of using even ‘greener’ methods of washing and using their nappies (reducing their ‘global warming impact’ up to another 24%).

Much more information can be found on the Womens Environmental Network website:

WEN: “Stop talking rubbish on nappies”

WEN: “Environment Agency nappy report is seriously flawed”

The NZ Ministry for the Environment comments on this study here: “What type of nappy should I use?”

The KC media release focuses on waste to landfill. And well it should – disposables are the single largest product category of household waste, costing Christchurch ratepayers around $600,000 a year to landfill just disposables. While construction waste and green waste are obviously large issues for NZ landfills – most of that does not come from households, but from industry. Important campaigns are already in place to reduce construction waste and green waste.

The Christchurch City Councils recent Modern Cloth Nappy subsidy scheme was such a success that it was extended twice. And now several other councils are funding similar schemes. The feedback from parents has been outstanding, and councils can obviously see the advantages in waste reduction.

Just one child in cloth nappies will save around 2 tonnes of solid waste from going to landfill.

Aside from the important environmental concerns – modern cloth nappies give parents more choice financially, they allow parents to choose between natural and synthetic fibres, may last through several children (increasing savings and decreasing eco-impact), they can be as simple to use as a disposable, they come in the widest range of styles, colours, prints, and fabrics, they can keep babys skin dry and healthy – or wet to assist with toilet learning, they allow parents to choose the level of absorbency – trim for day and boosted for no-leak night-time use, and the option of supporting NZ business with more and more modern cloth nappies being produced right here in NZ.

Modern Cloth Nappies are about choice – not guilt. The Nappy Network (Incorporated) is a non-profit society run by volunteers – we don’t make any money by advocating modern cloth nappies, we do so because we believe in informed choice for parents.

Oz Cloth Nappies has addressed the Environment Agency’s report as well, in our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and in previous blog posts here. From our FAQ:

The Environment Agency report has been thoroughly criticised in many ways, yet a lot of the critiques miss one very key assumption creating a massive bias – that a family will own 47 nappies, yet only ever launder 12 at a time. With the study focusing on energy consumption, particularly by washing machines (and the study looking at machines much less energy efficient than current machines), small changes in this faulty assumption will be expected to have large effects on the outcome.

The authors made assumptions that many users were using throwaway liners (dumping faeces into the rubbish, an unsanitary act illegal in many areas), chemical nappy soaks, near-boiling water, very large amounts of detergent, fabric softeners, tumble drying, and even ironing. None of these are necessary.

The adverse health effects of single-use nappies were completely ignored. Especially when the baby is changed an average of only four times in 24 hours, as this study assumed.

Nor were any modern cloth nappies considered in the analysis. There has been a strong move in the past three years towards fabric crops far more sustainable than ordinary cotton – organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo are farmed in more earth-friendly ways including the minimisation of use of water, chemicals and pesticides. This LCA was asking yesterday’s questions.

The only conclusion that can firmly be drawn from this study is that if you care for your cloth nappies in the most ignorant, wasteful, and damaging way imaginable, they are STILL no worse for the planet than changing just four single-use nappies a day. […]

On water usage: on average, washing cloth nappies for one baby is about equivalent to flushing the toilet four to six times a day. Are you wearing disposable nappies right now?

A close reading of life cycle analyses shows that at least half of the “water use” figures for cloth nappies are attributed to the production phase of conventionally grown cotton crops. This can be readily decreased by choosing more earth-friendly fabrics like hemp and bamboo. Another way to dramatically reduce this impact it to use nappies until they are worn out. Studies like the EA study assume that nappies are discarded after 50-150 uses; in practice, and with sensible laundry techniques, nappies should last for 200-800 uses, depending on type. Changing these basic assumptions can make a big difference to your impact.

There are other issues with the water figures in the EA study and those like it: assumption of a low-water-efficiency washing techniques (75 litres for only 12 nappies); unnecessary soaking practices; ignoring flush water necessary with single-nappy use (for flushing faeces before placing the nappy in domestic rubbish) are just a few.

Consider your entire household’s use of water. The money you save using cloth nappies could go a long way toward installing a rainwater tank, a greywater system, a more water efficient washing machine and showerheads.

Lastly, consider the root cause of global climate change. Reusable nappies have a lower energy, fossil fuel and emissions impact compared to throwaway nappies. By teaching your children to reduce, reuse, and recycle – you’re setting the stage for their environmental education. Here’s hoping the next generation will make the Earth a better place.

Here’s the latest news on the cloth vs single use nappy debate … again

If you read this story in the paper or caught the coverage on morning television or radio, those reporting it would have you believe this new research on the environmental impact of cloth and single use nappies is groundbreaking.

Or is it?

The findings of the four year study done by the UK Environment Agency (UK) were released in May 2005. The official publication was widely discussed at the time on Ozclothnappies and the report was considered flawed owing to poor quality data and it’s failure to account for advances in washing methods and new products like hemp and bamboo nappies.

It’s obvious the report in the Herald Sun has been based on articles in the The Daily Mail and The Telegraph, which are essentially political criticism of a waste of taxpayers money.

If any Australian media had bothered to check the transcript here they would have seen quite clearly stated:

“In May 2005, the Environment Agency published a report entitled “A Life Cycle Assessment of disposable and reusable nappies in the UK”.

Not only one media outlet reported the misrepresentation, but the error was repeated on no less than one website, by one daily newspaper, two metropolitan radio stations and one morning breakfast program on national television.

The flaws in the report have been widely commented on when it was first published by WEN and The real Diaper Association.

While it’s easy to expose lazy reporting, it’s very disappointing the misleading and false claims of the study are again reverberating through the media.

Modern cloth nappies at Bubhub

This month’s Bubhub newsletter focuses on cloth nappies. Read it here:

Bubhub: Modern cloth nappies

Baby K models a modern cloth nappy

“Becoming a parent for the first time is an overwhelming experience and with so many reusable nappy options now available it’s great to know there is a little help to navigate through the choices.

The Australian Nappy Network formed earlier this year as an independent non-profit advocacy organisation to support parents and help objectively spread the word about reusable nappies.

Other online communities providing support and information, such as ozclothnappies.org and nappycino.com.au, have been around for a little longer and have grown rapidly in that time, now registering more than 1500 users. The Bub Hub forum also has a lively modern cloth nappy discussion area.

The demand for reusable nappies has grown along with the online groups, but you won’t find them on the supermarket shelves just yet.

An emerging cottage industry has sprung up in Australia over the past four years, with many mums importing fabrics not widely available here, and with bright ideas and a passion for sewing, they have started selling cloth nappies online.”

Read the rest at the link: Bubhub: Modern cloth nappies

UK Pregnancy & Baby magazine features Australian nappy on its cover

A gorgeous orange bamboo Baby Beehinds nappy features on the cover of this month’s UK Junior Pregnancy & Baby magazine. The issue focuses on “The Carbon Neutral Baby”.

Baby Beehinds on Pregnancy & Baby mag

Davina of Baby Beehinds has built her business from nothing over a few short years, and it’s great to see her going from success to success in the overseas as well as the local market. Congratulations Davina!

Debunking Dr Karl

It was great to hear nappies discussed on Dr Karl’s Triple J show! You can listen to the show here.

Unfortunately, Dr Karl didn’t know anything about modern cloth nappies and laundry techniques – or, at least, he didn’t at the start of the show. We were very pleased that an Oz Cloth Nappies member contacted him and our website was referred to on-air before the end of the show. It would be great to see a follow-up episode talking about the modern cloth revolution!

Dr Karl’s show did highlight some very common myths about nappies, so here’s a brief debunking and some links for further reading.

Myth: Reusable nappies take a lot of water to wash and this is bad for the drought.

Reality: Disposable nappies are manufactured in Australia, in drought-affected areas – and disposable nappies have 2.3 times the water impact compared to washing cloth nappies. The water you see isn’t the only water you use – think beyond your own backyard!

You can reduce your environmental impact even more dramatically by choosing hemp, bamboo or organic cotton nappies, using a water-efficient front loading washing machine, drying on the line, and using your nappies beyond the 100 or so uses assumed by paper-products-industry-funded research. Real nappies can generally be used 250-800 times before they need to be recycled or discarded, depending on the type of nappy. Read more about nappies and the environment in our FAQ.

Myth: Cloth nappies need all sorts of “killer chemicals” to sterilise them.

Reality: All you need for domestic laundry of cloth nappies is a small amount of regular or eco detergent, some warm water, and an outdoors clothesline. Detergent and modern washing machines do a very good job of removing the vast majority of bacteria, and sunlight photo-oxidises remaining bacteria. (The show was slightly muddled, it’s not vitamin D, it’s the ultraviolet- so this even works on a cloudy day, though it may take a little longer.) Sunlight is also amazing for dealing with any stains.

If you can’t hang clothes outdoors, it may be wise to use hot water. 60-65 degrees is adequate – basically pasteurising your nappies. Pasteurisation is considered to make pooled farm milk safe for consumption, so it’s plenty good enough for your own household germs.

Soaking chemicals are expensive, irritating to the skin, and unnecessary. A soaking pail can also present a drowning risk to toddlers. So read up about dry-pailing and easy, sustainable laundry techniques in our FAQ. We were pleased to hear the “Napisan is environmentally dangerous” myth debunked later on Dr Karl’s show – but the reality is, you don’t need Napisan at all!

While you’re considering chemicals and your baby’s bottom, don’t touch that PVC! The best nappy covers are made from fleece (recycled from plastic bottles), wool, or polyurethane laminate fabrics.