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.


British report reveals reusable nappies offer substantial enviro benefits.

From the Australian Nappy Network:

The Environment Agency, UK, has revealed that using reusable nappies, as opposed to disposable ones, can save families, carers and the environment 40% in carbon emissions.

The ‘Updated Lifecycle Assessment Study for Disposable and Reusable Nappies’, published on Friday in the UK, was the largest and most comprehensive study of its type ever to be undertaken examining the environmental impacts of the two nappy systems. 

Lucy Westerman, Director of the Australian Nappy Network is delighted with the findings, saying that, “This report represents a dramatic step forward in propelling community education, amongst parents and carers, and confirms exactly what we have known for many years – that reusable nappies really are much better for the environment than disposables.”

The quantity of disposable nappies currently being sent to landfill, in Australia alone, is reaching dramatic proportions.  Recent research shows that Australians are throwing away one billion disposable nappies every single year, with each of these taking up to 300 years to fully decomposei. 

“The environmental impact of disposable nappies in Australia is immense,” explains Ms Westerman.  “Coupled with the landfill issue you also have to consider the impact of the materials, chemicals and resources that go into the manufacturing and packaging of disposables.”

“The Report demonstrates that by simply washing reusable nappies in full loads, using an energy efficient washing machine, set under 60º Celsius, line-drying them and reusing them on other children provides over 40% reduction in carbon emissions, compared to the use of disposables.”

“In Australia, obviously we have to be very conscious of using our water efficiently but we have the significant benefit of the climate, which enables most Australians to air-dry throughout the year,” she continued.

Today’s reusable nappies bridge the gap between the cloth of by gone eras and disposables.  Reusables are increasingly produced with minimal impact from highly absorbent sustainable eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton, bamboo and hemp.  Such fabrics are incredibly effective and soft for your baby to wear with the added convenience of being quick-drying, fitted like disposables or flat, with velcro, snappis or press-stud fasteners and no longer requiring soaking.

“Typically a baby will get through between 4000 and 6000 nappy changes before it is toilet trained, so when you consider the impact of this on the environment and the cost effectiveness of using reusables, it’s a win-win situation, not only for the environment but for your pocket too.” 
“If you then go on to reuse these nappies on another child you create even greater savings and by adopting reusable nappies means that parents and carers are in control of the impact they have on the environment,” concludes Ms Westerman.


Read more here at the Australian Nappy Network.

Cloth nappies cut carbon emissions by around half: Environment Agency

An updated Environment Agency report concludes that reusable nappies, used sensibly, reduce carbon emissions dramatically. The myth of “disposable and cloth nappies having the same environmental impact” has been well and truly busted.

Recycling & Waste Management News & Information reports:

An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies examines the environmental impacts of two systems. The report analyses the environmental impacts of a child using disposable nappies for the first two and half years of its life versus cloth nappies for the same period.

The aim of the study was to update a previous report on the environmental impacts of reusable nappy types compared with disposable nappies, using a 2006 data reference point.

It says that the average disposable nappy would result in “a global warming impact of approximately 550 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents used over the two and half years a child is typically in nappies”. In comparison, using re-useable nappies that had been eco-washed would result in a global warming impact of “some 200 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents over two and a half years”.

The amount of carbon emissions saved is around the same as the difference you could make by switching 140 reams of paper from new to recycled, or by switching your machine machine over to cold water for a year and a half. (sources: stopglobalwarming.org, livclean)

Just one more small way we can all reduce our contributions to human-made climate change. Spread the word.

Cloth nappies a key money-saving strategy

Reusable nappies are an important part of budgeting for new parents. News.com.au reports: 


Latest figures show that middle-income parents with two children will spend more than $500,000 on them by the time they hit the age of 21. 


But are those costs just a sign of the times, or are there ways to cut spending without compromising the quality of their childhood?


Here are a few ideas.  […]  

4. Washable nappies

While there has been no comprehensive published study of the environmental benefits of cloth nappies in Australia, they are certainly a lot easier on your pocket.


You can spend as much as $4000 on disposable nappies per child, but cloth nappies and laundry costs shouldn’t come to more than $1500 – and even less for the second child, as you can reuse the nappies you bought for the first baby.  


Many people labour under the misconception that laundering nappies is a substantial household cost. On the contrary – washing cloth nappies costs around a dollar a week even if you’re not particularly frugal, and it can cost a lot less if you use cold water, off-peak power, and minimal detergent.  Sunlight sanitises home-washed nappies just fine most of the time.

For a detailed costing, see the Ozclothnappies FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). 

Spend your laundry savings on green power – and your nappy savings might fund a rainwater tank or solar system. 

Other frugal tips from the article that also help the environment and your health include going to the park instead of driving to malls and movies, teaching your kids to grow and cook fresh whole foods, growing vegetables, and buying a good bike so they can get into the habit of cycling instead of driving.     

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.

Stop talking rubbish on nappies: statement from WEN

Please welcome Tawha to the OzClothBlog! Tawha has been an ozclothnappies co-moderator for some time, works on the “IRL” real-life nappy shop/demonstrator list, and will be co-blogging with me.

Further to Tawha’s story yesterday on the media recycling old nappy news without a shred of research, the UK Women’s Environment Network has released a statement: ” Stop talking rubbish on nappies”.

An excerpt:

Washable nappies are clearly better for the environment, even when you take account of the energy and water used to wash them. Using real nappies puts parents in control. With a good washing routine parents can minimise the environmental impact of their babies’ nappies, reduce waste and save themselves money.


The 2005 report based key assumptions on flawed data, which caused it to overestimate the impact of washing nappies. It also ignored the potential of modern, fitted cloth nappies, to reduce impacts.

WEN found that, even on the basis of the flawed data in the report, parents can reduce global warming impacts by 24% more than the report concluded. A 17% reduction in global warming impacts can be achieved by using an A rated washing machine and following manufacturers’ guidance to wash at 60 deg C. With A rated washing machine sales at near saturation by early 2005 many real nappy users are already achieving this saving. Parents only need use 24 real nappies, rather than the 47 the LCA assumes, reducing their global warming impact by another 6.9%.

This advantage can be even greater if organic cotton, hemp or bamboo nappies are chosen and locally supplied and if nappies are used on a second or third child.

The advantages of cloth nappies can be even greater in Australia, where line drying is possible up to 100% of the time in most areas. Nappies can be washed at 30-40 degrees much of the time, and by signing up to green power or installing solar power, your greenhouse gas impact drops further again. Transport is another big issue, with Australia’s very large distances; a cloth nappy needs to be transported to your house once (followed by 200-500 re-uses or even more); disposable nappies need to be transported to your city every week.

And don’t forget – with the money you save on cloth nappies, you could install a rainwater tank, buy a super-efficient washing machine, switch to organic vegies, or even get yourself some houshold cleaning help!