During the couple of years a child may wear disposable diapers, or nappies as we call them in Australia, 2 tons of diaper waste will be produced. Here in Australia, we get through around 800 million disposable nappies each year. In the USA, Canda and UK, it’s in the billions.
In my article on the reusable cloth vs disposable diaper debate, I mention a report that found cloth diapers can have far less of an environmental impact, assuming certain simple conditions.
Findings from a kerbside waste bin audit undertaken in Port Adelaide Enfield Council area showed disposable plastic nappies make up 6% of all waste in household bins. I’m glad I wasn’t the poor soul charged with the task of doing that particular audit.
Faced with dealing with a growing amount of disposable nappy waste, Council has begun subsidizing a diaper hire service. Run through EcoBums, a company referring to itself as a “cloth nappy library”, residents are provided with a pack of cloth nappies to trial over 2 weeks.
Nappies have certainly changed since I had the um.. privilege.. of diaper changing. Back then, all they were was a square of cotton cloth, held together with a safety pin. While those are still available, cloth diaper design has come a long way, with some looking and functioning like a disposable nappy (aside from the disposable bit).
Given the issues with standard cotton such as pesticide use, some parents choose to buy cloth diapers made with fibers such as organic cotton, hemp or bamboo. The hiring of nappies is also an interesting concept. While I initially screwed up my nose a bit at the idea, EcoBums says all packs come with strict cleaning instructions and the nappies are also sanitised again by the company once returned.
I’m guessing the Port Adelaide Enfield Council initiative isn’t the only program of its type in the world, so if you know of others, please leave details below.
You could perhaps also contact Eco Bums for advice on how to go about approaching your council to set up a similar scheme as they invite such enquiries; or hassle your council by pointing them to this information sheet from Port Adelaide Enfield about the program.