Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: how switching to cloth nappies can save money and waste.
As every parent will tell you, babies require a lot of stuff. From bottles and booties to bafflingly complex transport infrastructure, these tiny humans go through a lot at what feels like lightning fast speeds – and nappies are no exception.
Newborns need about 12 nappy changes a day. After year one, you can expect to go through around four or five a day – but that still adds up to as many as 1,800 a year. And there’s no getting around it – a clean nappy is pretty high on baby’s list of demands.
Disposable nappies are certainly a godsend for parents – they’re easy to use and convenient to dispose of. But as about 25% of each disposable nappy is made of plastic, some three billion nappies a year end up in landfill. Parents will inherently always have one eye on the future, so many will question at some point whether there’s a decent alternative.
And the term ‘decent’ is important here. Traditionally, the idea of reusable nappies conjures up images of cloth squares held loosely in place with precariously large safety pins. It’s easy to see why they’d play second fiddle to the far more efficient ‘containment’ offered by snug and stretchy disposables.
But reusable nappies have come a long way in recent times, evolving from basic cotton squares to brightly coloured, absorbent materials such as bamboo, microfiber and hemp. And they’re a lot more reliable than previous iterations, too, with new designs incorporating bottom-friendly shapes and snug-fitting stretchy fits. As such, reusable nappy makers are gradually seeing an uptick in sales. As The Guardian reports, Northamptonshire-based Bambino Mio has seen sales increase by 50% over the past two years, with the company estimating that some 30% of parents now use plastic-free alternatives to disposable nappies.
And there’s the financial argument, too. According to reusable nappy company Fill Your Pants, parents will spend an average of £1,885 getting their baby to potty training through disposable nappies. Now, in terms of initial outlay, reusable nappies can seem costly, especially for brand new parents. Fill Your Pants’ budget starter kit, for example, costs £115. However, compared to the overall cost of disposables across a child’s nappy-wearing career, that still adds up to a substantial saving. Fill Your Pants have also figured out the additional costs involved in terms of laundry: £96.74. So that’s a total saving of £1,673.26.
Because of the landfill issues associated with disposables, local councils are often keen to help parents experiment with cloth nappies, and many run their own voucher scheme to help front the cost of a set of reusables. There are initiatives all over the country, ranging from free kits and money-off vouchers, to cashback deals and other incentives. The Nappy Gurus has a full list of what’s available and where.
If you like the idea of reusable nappies but are put off by the faff involved, considering enlisting the help of a nappy washing service. A growing number of companies will collect, launder and return your nappies. Costs vary, but expect to pay upwards of £15 per week.
If you’re swaying more towards the convenience of disposables, but are concerned about the environmental implications, check out the more eco-friendly options available on the market. Some brands, such as Beaming Baby, are made from biodegradable material, which lessen the landill impact.
The bottom line
Having a baby is exhausting, so it’s no surprise that new parents rely on disposable nappies. But babies are also expensive, and with reusable options so much more convenient and reliable than they used to be, switching away from disposables – even if it’s just for one or two nappy changes a day – can mean big savings for both your wallet and the planet.
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