A figure often cited in the case for using reusable nappies is that disposable nappies can last up to 500 years in landfill, as the plastic they are made of does not biodegrade for that length of time. Several brands of nappies - Kit and Kin and Eco by Naty to name a couple - now produce eco friendly 'biodegradable' nappies that are supposed to be a lot quicker to break down, so if you are going to use disposable nappies, these seem the obvious eco-friendly choice, but have you ever checked where your nappies actually go once you've put them in your purple bin? We talked to the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority to find out for you!
As it turns out, not much of Merseyside's waste ends up in landfill. The waste from purple bins is all taken to local recycling centres (where your blue bins go too) and from there is transported by train to a facility in Teeside called the Wilton Energy-from-Waste facility. This is a power plant that started in 2016 which incinerates your household waste, and anything not recyclable in your blue bins, to create energy from the steam produced. The steam is then used to power business on the Wilton Industrial Estate, and is also sold to the National Grid.
There are environmental arguments both for and against incineration over landfill, and, to be honest, it's too complex an issue to be covered by this blog post. If you're interested, this BBC article sums it up quite nicely, and specifically references the Energy-from-Waste scheme. The plastic issue is particularly interesting.
Regardless of whether landfill or incineration is better, if you live in Merseyside it is pointless buying nappies that are quicker to biodegrade as the chances are they will end up being burnt long before they've had a chance to even begin to break down. So what's the best thing to do if you want an eco friendly nappy option?
Obviously, we come with an agenda and that agenda is: reusable nappies!!
However, we completely understand that using reusable nappies full time all the time is not realistic for many parents out there, but that doesn't mean you're not concerned about the environment. So when you're looking at brands of disposable nappies to buy, instead of looking at how quickly they biodegrade, look into other environmental issues such as: are the materials sustainable and harmful chemical free? Do they use ethical and environmentally friendly processes to make the nappies? How much plastic do the nappies contain? Do they have any sustainability initiatives within their company? We've summarised a few main brands below for you that we think achieve an eco-friendly status, but we encourage you to do your own research!
Kit + Kin
Kit + Kin nappies are made from sustainable wood pulp, bio gels and other sustainable plant based materials. They have recently upgraded their manufacturing process to be carbon neutral, and their packaging to be sustainable and recyclable. Through their subscription programme they donate to the World Land Trust which raises awareness of rainforest conservation and threatened habitats, plus for every 10 subscriptions they plant an acre of rainforest.
Bumbo Nature produce nappies made from sustainable materials, and they have no harmful chemicals in them. It is the only disposable nappy brand to be certified by the EU Ecolabel and Nordic Swan and in fact, they've got an impressive amount of environmental certification under their belts. Their nappies are manufactured in Denmark in a factory that uses renewable energy and they are working towards being carbon neutral, plus a lot of their waste goes to be recycled to form new products.
Eco by Naty
These nappies are made from renewable materials and contain no harmful chemicals. It appears their main eco credential is that they are biodegradable as it was difficult to find out any information about their manufacturing processes (other than they're in Turkey), or specifically what the nappies are made of. So they're not a brilliant eco choice if you're in Merseyside, but they're still a better choice than a non-eco brand!
A couple of brands such as Mum & You and Rascal + Friends produce nappies that are harsh chemical free and use sustainable pulp for the absorbent middle, but don't mention any other sustainable, eco or ethical practices on their websites.
All these brands of disposable nappies are doing great work to make a typically unenvironmentally friendly product have significantly less impact on the environment, and we applaud them for that! So if you feel that reusable nappies aren't right for you at the moment, choosing one of these brands is a great alternative. If you're still curious about reusable nappies but aren't quite sure yet, get in touch. Even using one reusable nappy a day saves 365 nappies from incineration, and can get you on your way to using reusables even more!
If you know of any other eco-friendly brands of disposable nappies out there, let us know and we'll add them to the blog!