Cloth 101: The Environmental Debate
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Cloth 101: The Environmental Debate
 12/27/2013  by 

cloth nappies and the environment

Here are several studies which have been done to determine the environmental impact between disposables and cloth nappies. 

1)  Life Cycle Assessment of Disposable and Reuseable Nappies in the UK by UK Environmental Dept. (2002)

This study concludes that there is no environmental difference between disposables and cloth nappies. However please dont take this at face value.

The study assumes that 91% of disposables are put into landfill and this 91% will become putrid due to the faeces included in the waste. It does not take into consideration the impact of this putrid material on the surrounding environment. This would be a huge cost.

This study also assumes that only terry towelling cloth nappies are used and they are soaked twice a day in a sanitiser. This will add to the environmental impact of cloth nappies in the study, as more water is being used and the addition of chemicals. Cloth  nappies are now dry pailed and the use of any chemicals is not approved. 

The study also clearly advises the information used to come to this assessment is not reliable and more information is requirement. To reduce environmental impact for cloth nappy users is dependent upon their washing and drying habits. 

2) An Updated Life Cycle Assessment of Disposables and Reusable Nappies in the UK by the UK Environmental Dept (2008)

This study shows again that in terms of CO2 output, disposables and cloth nappies are nearly identical. This includes, manufacturing, use and disposal.

However, the assumptions used in the study for cloth nappies are based on UK weather conditions. That is, tumble drying majority of the time with little outside drying of cloth nappies. And washing cloth nappies at 60 degrees, which is not advised. In addition to the other assumptions discussed above.

The study further states that the users of cloth nappies have the greatest control over their environmental impact. These include cooler temperature washes, little use of the dryer, dry pailing and outside drying.

3) Life Cycle Assessment: Reuseable and Disposable Nappies in Australia by University of Queensland (2009)

Even though this study shows that cloth nappies are more environmentally friendly, how friendly depends upon how they are used and washed. Using cold water, dry pailing, line drying, no chemicals and using on a second child will greatly reduce the environmental impact. The study also goes into more suggestions to reduce environmental impact. 

Again this study does not include the local environmental impacts of disposables in landfill. The study does not include the affects on local water systems or local soils due to leaching putrid matter from non degradeable materials in disposables and the faeces which is present.

- Here are two articles by National Geographic which supports the use of cloth nappies.

4) Why should I use cloth?

5) What are the benefits of cloth?

6) Environmental Impact of Disposable Diapers by Amber Keefer 2010 

This is a very sad article. Really makes you stop and think.

7)  Here is the first scientific artilce on the debate between disposable and cloth nappy.

Diapers: Environmental Impacts and Lifecycle analysis (1991)

The article clarifies that cloth nappies are more environmentally superior when compared to disposables. It is in hard scientific facts.

8) A National Geographic project and documentary on the environmental footprint of disposable nappies. Its really scary. 

Link 1: The facts

Link 2: The Human Footprint documentary

9) Grovias calculations of one cup of crude oil to make one cloth diaper. 

16 tankers to make one years supply of diapers for the US.

10) One mums honest assessment of cloth vs disposable.

11) A news article about how biodegradeable cloth nappies are not one of the best options.

12) Disposeable vs biodegradeable nappies. Which to choose and information for you to consider.

Diapers Review: Seventh Generation, WF 365, gDiapers

Green Diapers: SAP, biodegradability, chlorine, woodpulp

13) The Real Diaper Association facts and figures.

14) An article about the ethics of cheap cloth nappies. Thankyou Louisa at Lavenderia.

15) Dioxin exposed: A nurse practitioners look at the chemicals in disposables.

A mum and a professional research in to the chemicals in disposables, with studies to back up her claims.

16) A UK article for you to think about if Government should get involved in assisting the conversion of disposable to cloth nappies. Interesting question.

Does the Nanny State Have a Role in Changing Nappies?

17) UK article on why using cloth nappies is better.

Dont Throw in the Towel - the Case for Cloth Nappies

18) Why cloth diapers might not be the greener choice, after all
Again this is an article that is not well balanced and does not take into all the costs of disposable cloth nappies or cloth nappies.  A response to this article is shown in 19)

19) In response to Washington Post’s recent article, “Why cloth diapers might not be the greener choice, after all.”

Again this article is not entirely indepth or well balanced. But it points out several concerns that were not raised in 18)

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