Cloth vs Disposables
On first glance modern cloth nappies can appear to be quite expensive, more than you would expect, and it’s hard for some to understand how they can be a cheaper alternative. To get an understanding we need to look at the total cost of using both cloth nappies and disposables over the entire time your child is in nappies.
Children will generally toilet train around 2.5 years of age, sometimes earlier and sometimes a bit later. On average they may go through about 6-7 nappies per day. Again this can vary as newborns will usually go through many more and older children less, however children should be changed at most every 3-4 hours during the day, so we have based the costs on this.
Disposable nappies vary in cost, with cheaper brands being about 35 cents per nappy and the more expensive brands about 40-60 cents a nappy.
If a child is in nappies for 2.5 years (913 days or 130 weeks) using roughly 7 nappies per day at 40 cents a nappy this works out to be around $2500.00, and that’s being generous. This figure can easily be much higher, even up to $3500.00-$4000.00!
We then need to consider disposable wipes. If we use roughly a packet of these a week at a cost of around $5.50 per packet, this adds on another $715.00. Some people also like to use disposable nappy sacks which are another added cost.
If we now look at the cost of modern cloth nappies (MCN), you will see how much cheaper they actually are. You can get a full time pack of Modern Cloth Nappies for roughly $500.00 – $1500.00 depending on what brands and types you use. If these are then used again on consecutive children you increase your savings even more! A family of three using one set of nappies on all children could save up to $10,000.00 just by using Cloth nappies instead of disposables! I know where I would rather spend my money!
Disposable nappies are an environmental disaster. They take up tonnes of space in landfill, roughly 2 tonnes per baby, and use a ridiculous amount of water and energy during their manufacture. Added to this is the fact that most people that use them don’t dispose of solids in the toilet before putting them in the rubbish which is not only illegal in some areas but harmful to our health and the environment. This is clearly recommended and written on all packets of disposable nappies.
Roughly 1.375 billion disposable nappies are used annually in Australia and New Zealand. Every disposable nappy sent to landfill since their invention in 1961 is still there, and still will be for many more years to come. It is thought that disposable nappies take about 500 years to break down.
Roughly 3 million trees are chopped down each year to make disposable nappies for both Australia and New Zealand and they require much higher amounts of energy, fossil fuels and release much more carbon emissions during their manufacture. It takes 2.3 times more water to make one disposable nappy than it takes to wash an entire load of modern cloth nappies, and each disposable nappy requires 1 cup of crude oil. Add to this the huge amount of chemicals used as well as packaging and you get a rough idea on just how much of an affect disposable nappies have on the environment.
Modern cloth nappies are primarily made up of hemp and bamboo; two of the most environmentally sustainable plants in the world. When made into fabrics, not only are they breathable and hard-wearing but they are super absorbent and best of all don’t need to be thrown out after one use! They are renewable, natural fibres that don’t require dangerous and harmful manufacturing processes.
One of the biggest concerns in using disposable nappies is the high amount of plastics and chemicals they are made up with. An example of one of the chemicals used is called sodium polyacrylate which is a fine powder, also known as the ‘super absorbers’ as they absorb every bit of moisture there is.
This can sometimes leave gel crystals on baby’s bottoms. This compound was banned from tampons in the 80’s because of its link to toxic shock syndrome. It’s hard to understand why it is allowed to be used so close to baby’s genitalia?
This is just one of the chemicals along with bleaching agents and additives that make up a disposable nappy. Some other dangerous chemicals include tributyl tin (used as ship paint), toxic dioxins created by bleaching processes (these have links to some cancers, immune disorders and reproductive issues) and airborne emissions which can cause asthma like reactions.
Another concern is the fact that disposable nappies are largely made of plastic which isn’t at all breathable. It has been suggested that this causes a higher than normal increase in the temperature of a baby’s testicles which could potentially cause future fertility issues, not to mention rashes, sweats and discomfort. Would you prefer to wear plastic pants?