Environmental impact of diapers

Disposable or cloth diapers?

  • Disposable diapers

    Votes: 26 86.7%
  • Cloth diapers

    Votes: 4 13.3%

  • Total voters
    30
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LittlePony

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According to some research I did a while ago (and most peeps already know anyways) diapers are one of the major items filling up landfills. Of course I'd say there aren't nearly as many AB's, DL's, and incontinent people in comparison to the number of actual babies and youth needing night time protection.

I'm not going to worry too much and definitely not going to stop wearing or switch to cloth diapers. I also do ton of recycling anyways so I don't feel bad at all.

What's your opinion on the environmental aspect of diapers?
 

sparkywuff

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i'd go cloth but i'm too lazy to wash them and such.... i'm an American so that explains most of it :p
 

Gaius

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I wouldn't be too incredibly worried about the space diapers take up in landfills, since you live in the US. We've got all of Wyoming to fill up. :tongueout:

What might be more of a concern is the loss of materials used in diapers that could be used for other things - gasoline (plastic is a petroleum product, after all), wood or paper (used as a filler/absorption spreader) and whatever it is they make SAP out of.

However, diapers seem pretty insignificant compared to other things that most people use in terms of environmental impact. Traveling probably takes a greater toll on the environment by a few orders of magnitude more than occasionally wearing diapers does.

If you want more, there have been a few threads created with the same gist, and the easiest to find was here.
 

kwisy

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Diapers are blown up to be a large contributor to landfills. However unless I am misinformed they actually do decompose in a reasonable amount of time. Also the way politics are looking right now I feel like environmental things regarding diapers aren't that high on anyones priority list.

They make SAP out of Acrylic acid and some other things afaik.


As a college student who doesn't have the privacy or desire to use cloth diapers I would stick with disposables.
 

DA360

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I understand though their bad for the environment and that's why I hope we see more efforts to recycle some materials used in them (like plastics). There's programs in California to try to do this, they were testing it in the UK, and Australia has a program for it, etc. Maybe too they could reuse the plastics in the diapers in new diapers, which will mean less new plastics have to be made.

However, I prefer disposables when wearing. I haven't ever worn cloth diapers but considering to me, cloth shirts for some reason feel like sand-paper on my skin, I wouldn't want to wear it as a diaper ^^;. Plus, I like the look, feel, crinkle, etc. of the disposables which I wouldn't get with cloth. Though I would save money if I went with cloth.
 
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LittlePony

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Probably would go for cloth if I wasn't contending with parents.

We both definitely have to deal with the rents the parents lol, I feel ya. I would wear diapers longer and more of the time if I didn't have to worry about them finding out - which wouldn't be so bad but it's just one more thing they'd know about me that would make me even more different than I already am.

Yeah I'm not too worried about it just thought I'd see what others thought.

Yeah DA360 I love disposables because of the look, feel, crinkle, and I love the smell straight out of the package.
 
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crazykittensmile

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It does concern me that disposable diapers have such a damaging effect on the environment, both in their production and in their disposal. Generally I am fairly conscious about the impact I am having on the environment - I recycle what I can (which, thanks to my local council, is most things), compost and reuse as many non-recyclables as possible. I don't have a car and try to walk or catch buses/trains as much as I can rather than rely on driving. I never leave electrical items on standby, only turn the heating on when completely necessary and never tumble-dry my laundry. I avoid buying plastics and I try to buy items made of recycled materials. I'm vegetarian and buy organic and locally-produced foods where I can. I am a member of 'Friends of the Earth' and give a monthly donation towards their cause. Overall I would say that I am particularly aware of how what I am doing is impacting the environment - perhaps more so than many would deem necessary - and although most of my actions have only a minuscule impact when looking at the wider picture, I still stand by the saying that there is nothing worse than doing nothing because you could only do a little.

And then I wear disposable diapers. It does bother me that this part of me is environmentally unfriendly, both in terms of their production and their disposal, however cloth would be impractical for me. I live with a housemate and so laundering them would be difficult to hide - washing would be fine as she never goes through my washing line, but drying them would be difficult. I leave my clothes to air-dry, either outside or when it is raining indoors, and she would certainly notice my cloth nappies and plastic pants hanging on the line. In addition to this, I like to leave my laundry to build up until I have a completely full load so I am not turning the washing-machine on unnecessarily, but with cloth nappies it would not be possible to delay washing them for too long because of the smell. Arguably, by increasing the amount I was using electricity and water through washing cloth diapers it would simply be moving my environmental impact to another area.

And, on top of that, I will admit that I simply prefer disposable diapers. I do own a couple of all-in-one cloth diapers, but I prefer to use them as diaper covers and as added protection against leaks than I like to use them as a diaper in themselves. To me, cloth diapers just don't really feel like diapers. Additionally, I like the convenience of being able to take a diaper out of the package, put it on, use it, take it off and dispose of it. I don't know if this is truly a good excuse to ignore the option of cloth, but nevertheless as guilty as it does make me feel when I dwell on it, I cannot see myself giving up disposables any time soon.

That said, if a biodegradable low-environmental impact disposable was made then I would almost certainly switch to it, even though it would probably be rather expensive. I hope that in my lifetime biodegradable adult diapers do become available - biodegradable baby diapers already exist, and I always buy these to use as stuffers. I also make sure I always buy biodegradable baby wipes. Both of these items are more expensive than the standard baby diapers and stuffers, but doing so does off-set some of my guilt surrounding my use of disposable diapers. It makes me feel better to know that, although I don't feel able to give up disposable diapers I am at least taking what steps I can towards lowering my environmental-impact surrounding diaper-use.
 

LittlePony

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It would be nice when biodegradable adult diapers come out that are just like our favorites- Bambinos, Abena, etc and all sorts of designs too.

But biodegradability isn't the only bio issue. Wastage is another problem- I believe they use paper or it's pulp (not quite sure) I think they should start using hemp product instead & for paper & in place of cotton (much stronger). Unfortunately since hemp can't be grown in the USA, and importing hemp would be a waste of fuel the only way to allow this would be to legalize marijuana. (Oh no the countries gonna go to pot - oops no pun intentended. And kids will be smoking it - Actually legalization will allow better treatment for people instead of being treated as criminals. Anyways sorry for the rant. Me fighting for my cause(s).
 
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crazykittensmile

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I think they should start using hemp product instead & for paper & in place of cotton (much stronger). Unfortunately since hemp can't be grown in the USA, and importing hemp would be a waste of fuel the only way to allow this would be to legalize marijuana.

They would not have to legalize the smoking of marijuana in order to grow hemp. France is Europe's biggest producer of hemp, but has arguably the harshest EU law system in relation to smoking marijuana - the use of even minor amounts or marijuana is punishable by jail. Similarly, in much of the European Union, including the UK, smoking cannabis is against the law, however, growing hemp for commercial use is not illegal if you have a license. The same is true in Canada and Australia, and so I don't imagine that if the USA did legalise growing hemp that they would automatically have to legalise smoking marijuana.
 

GoldDragonAurkarm

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Although I am one of the evangels of cloth on these boards, and they are environmentally friendlier, there is still environmental impact, specifically in heating wash water and using electricity to run the laundry machines. that said, it's still less petroleum use overall (especially since the diaper isn't made of it in the first place), and the diaper isn't ending up in landfill after a couple of wettings. There are also petroleum savings with cloth because of the considerable reduction in transportation needed to move a constant supply of diapers from manufacturer to market to consumer.

The whole idea that cloth and disposable are of comparable environmental impact is not true, either, as the study that claimed that never took into account the petroleum used to make the disposable diaper, and they ignored flat and prefold cloth diapers, which need considerably less energy to clean and are the most common types of cloth diapers. They also used industry-provided data for the biodegradability of the materials used in disposables, figures which have been called into serious question as very optimistic by independent groups. A 2008 addendum to the original 2005 study apparently reveals, if one reads through the whole thing, that even a "low impact" disposable versus a "high impact" cloth (an all-in-one or something similar that takes considerably more energy to clean than flat or prefold standard cloth diapers) can yield as much as 40 percent overall impact if the end user makes conscientious laundering choices.

If one used flat or prefold diapers and was conscientious about laundering choices (water temps, line dry, etc.), I imagine that it would lessen the environmental impact even more. The study used some potentially optimistic numbers based on the lowest impact disposable diapers, whereas they did NOT give the same preferential treatment to cloth diapers (the study says that, "no updated manufacturing data on prefolds was made available by the industry."

That said, all disposable diapers only account for a little over two percent of landfill annually. So, the average ABDL that uses a diaper here and there is not making a large environmental impact, at least when compared to other diaper users like actual babies and medical care facilities. Obviously anything one does still has an impact, but those of us who use a disposable on occasion don't need to feel as though we're single-handedly destroying the planet and filling landfills.


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MetalMann

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I have to say that diapers don't make as bad as an impact like everyone thinks. There is an adult diaper company that does promote faster decomposition, and everyone here just about loves them. And that company is Abena. Though they don't write it all over their packages. It's not totally our fault that landfills are filled with plastics. It seems that grociery bags, trash bags, drink containers, meat packaging, are worse.

---------- Post added at 08:55 ---------- Previous post was at 08:38 ----------

Cloth diapers makes more of an impact in water than being an impact to petroleum use. The chemicals used to clean our clothes is quite bad. Also disposable diapers are far more absorbant than cloth diapers for every 2 ounces of cloth diapers you have you have one ounce of absorption available. They also cause a lot more changing and cause a lot of diaper rash. They are hard to find offline.
 

GoldDragonAurkarm

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I have to say that diapers don't make as bad as an impact like everyone thinks. There is an adult diaper company that does promote faster decomposition, and everyone here just about loves them. And that company is Abena. Though they don't write it all over their packages. It's not totally our fault that landfills are filled with plastics. It seems that grociery bags, trash bags, drink containers, meat packaging, are worse.

---------- Post added at 08:55 ---------- Previous post was at 08:38 ----------

Cloth diapers makes more of an impact in water than being an impact to petroleum use. The chemicals used to clean our clothes is quite bad. Also disposable diapers are far more absorbant than cloth diapers for every 2 ounces of cloth diapers you have you have one ounce of absorption available. They also cause a lot more changing and cause a lot of diaper rash. They are hard to find offline.

That said, in terms of overall impact, cloth diapers have been shown to have as much 40 percent less overall impact than even low-impact (biodegradable and the like) disposable diapers (and that's using numbers some environmentalists say are skewed in favor of disposables). This isn't just me making things up. This is from the 2008 update to a 2005 study conducted by the UK Environment Agency entitled "An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies.". I have the document open on my computer at this very moment. They frame it in terms of a child in diapers full time for 2.5 years, and they look at pretty much every facet you can think of, including water, landfill, carbon footprint, et cetera.

Yes, both cloth and disposables have impact. Disposables have more impact, especially if one makes very conscientious choices in laundering them.


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MetalMann

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Also if the US government would stop supporting the oil companies and rather invest in renewable or natural energy, then the cost of energy would be next to nothing. If the world ran out of crude oil theres only one modern country that wouldn't have any effect from it which is Brazil. The technology is there readily available for us to use. Thex aren't acting fast enough. The government could be putting solar panels on schools and other public buildings, and wouldn't need to but so much money from education. They wouldn't need to start raising more taxes on ciggarettes. The government could legalize marijuana and they wouldn't waste billions of dollars on preventing its consumption. Then they could be making money with legalizing it. Effects of marijuana isn't nearly as bad as alcohol. Hemp could be used in a lot of things. It's really easy to grow and could grow on some of the most infertile soil. Like Oklahoma and provide income to those areas. The government is stupid, greedy, and bigots.
 
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turtlepins

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Cloth diapers are better for our environment, and much cheaper than disposables. I've spent thousands of dollars just trying to find a disposable to which I am not allergic. I've had no luck over the last eighteen years. I did provide a set of cloth diapers to each grandchild and both my daughter's prefer them over the disposables because they don't leak or overflow with messes. For someone who is incontinent, like me, and in diapers 24/7, cloth are much more affordable than disposables. However! That being said, I am firmly convinced that each person should wear what they feel most comfortable in, and enjoy accordingly! Diaper on!
 

Eclectic

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I am definitely disturbed by my impact since I have been wearing diapers regularly for decades (both cloth and disposable). It's also the main reason for me to slowly switch completely over to cloth for my daytime diapering needs. I actually do a lot for the environment at home and work, but this is one area where I have a larger carbon footprint than the next person. I am a little disturbed by earlier comments having to do with politics and rationalizing. The current Republicans who are trying to water down and reverse environmental laws are self-serving, narrow-minded fools, but that has nothing to do with your diaper use. Face it, there is a impact to using diapers and we would all do better to try and minimize it.
 

WBDaddy

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They would not have to legalize the smoking of marijuana in order to grow hemp. France is Europe's biggest producer of hemp, but has arguably the harshest EU law system in relation to smoking marijuana - the use of even minor amounts or marijuana is punishable by jail. Similarly, in much of the European Union, including the UK, smoking cannabis is against the law, however, growing hemp for commercial use is not illegal if you have a license. The same is true in Canada and Australia, and so I don't imagine that if the USA did legalise growing hemp that they would automatically have to legalise smoking marijuana.

A lot of folks don't realize that commercial hemp has such a low concentration of THC you'd likely have to EAT (not smoke) several pounds of it to get high (THC actually produces a stronger reaction when eaten, not that I'd know anything about that *whistles*).

---------- Post added at 18:45 ---------- Previous post was at 18:43 ----------


Yes, both cloth and disposables have impact. Disposables have more impact, especially if one makes very conscientious choices in laundering them.

With how rarely I wear (2-3 times a week, never more than 1 per session), I'm not going to sweat the carbon footprint of the disposables I use.
 

DLinDET

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Wow, this is a great topic. I haven't read everyone's responses yet, but I have always considered the environmental aspects the "green elephant" in a life full of "white elephants". It bothers me but I guess we have to pick our battles. I am a fairly ardent environmentalist in most aspects of my life, but this is one great indulgence. I have been considering switching to cloth but, really, that isn't my fetish. Maybe I am so environmentally conscious in my vanilla life because I know my impact from abdl. I guess, luckily for the environment, I do not get to wear as often as I would like and probably do not have a significant impact.
 

lonnie

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There was a study done not to long ago compairing disposable diapers to cloth and if I remember corectly cloth diapers where more of a impact on the enviroment than disposables.
I do not know where to find that study off hand, but do remember reading it in the last couple of years.
 

GoldDragonAurkarm

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There was a study done not to long ago compairing disposable diapers to cloth and if I remember corectly cloth diapers where more of a impact on the enviroment than disposables.
I do not know where to find that study off hand, but do remember reading it in the last couple of years.

Are you kidding? If you'd read the rest of thread, you'd have seen that I talked about that very study. Go re-read. The original study said that they were about equal in terms of impact. A bunch of environmentalists called the methodology and the numbers into question, so they went back and revisited and updated the study in 2008. The updated results show as much as 40 percent less environmental impact with cloth, depending upon how one launders them.

In fact, I even have the name of the study up there. It was a UK Environment Agency study entitled "An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies". I have a copy of the published results saved on my work computer (and just had to open it to get the exact title).


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