The environmental cost of disposable nappies

At the last Conservative Party conference, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove hinted at a future ban of nappies.

He later clarified his comments to say that nappies wouldn’t be banned but suggested they could be part of plans to “tackle waste better”.

So what is the environmental cost of single-use nappies?

An estimated three billion nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, accounting for 2-3% of all household waste, according to recycling charity Wrap.

This is a fairly old estimate based on the number of babies and toddlers in the population and how many nappies a day the average baby uses.

It may have shifted slightly but gives a reasonable ballpark.

The vast majority of nappies are not recyclable and must be thrown away with general waste. This means they will probably end up in landfill or being burnt.

Energy can be harnessed from burning waste and used for fuel but this also produces greenhouse gases – as do landfills.

The main alternatives are cloth nappies that can be washed and reused, biodegradable nappies

Wrap says by the time they are potty trained, a baby could have used 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies, or 20 to 30 reusable nappies

There’s also a financial saving to be had – although those wanting the convenience of disposables along with environmental benefits might find themselves paying more for biodegradable nappies.

Throwaway nappies contain plastic and so does the packaging they come in.

Much of this plastic will go to landfill. And so, to put it politely, will the nappy’s contents, which can then end up in the water system.

When reusable nappies are washed, on the other hand, faeces end up in the waste water supply, which means they are then treated in a water treatment plant, in the same way adult waste is.

TNT News

Photo Credit: Pxhere

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