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cloth vs disposable = bad as each other; this must be bollocks no?

(23 Posts)
bohemianbint Tue 10-Jul-07 10:49:07

I'm on a bit of a green posting theme today!

My dad was telling me the other day that a government report has found that both types of nappy are as bad as each other environmentally. I just don't see how it's possible.

Yeah, I know that the washing of cloth uses up energy. But if your electricity comes from renewables (ours does and we dry the nappies on the line/airer) then surely this alters the findings? The fact that disposable nappies are made from a non renewable source and never biodegrade must make them a worse option?

I could rant a bit longer but DS is having hysterics so have to go, but any thoughts?

nearlythere Tue 10-Jul-07 10:50:21

i am running a survey on this- check the nappies topic and sign up if you haven't already!

Cappuccino Tue 10-Jul-07 10:51:11

the survey is flawed but they keep trotting it out

it is based on assumptions that are bolleaux

beansontoast Tue 10-Jul-07 10:55:35

the assumptions made in the study (about how nappies are washed and used)did not match my use of washable id wash them on 30 or forty degrees mainly...and on sixty (RARELY)if any stains didnt budge,also we dont have a tumble drier.

im not convinced.

i used disposables every now and then btw

bohemianbint Tue 10-Jul-07 11:27:31

nearlythere - whats the link to your survey? Will check it out!

Poo2 Tue 10-Jul-07 11:30:28

I think some of the thoughts on why washables aren't as green as we might assume, is that they are usually made of cotton and they are at some point air freighted in to the country. Still think its a load of rubbish mind. Any why do people never mention one of the big reasons why so many of us use them - that its so much cheaper? My prefolds are now on baby number 3 and muct have saved me thousands over the last couple of years.

GreebosWhiskers Tue 10-Jul-07 11:44:27

The survey assumed the nappies were boil-washed, tumble-dried & ironed ffs - who irons nappies? I think it also assumed fabric softener was used (?)

I don't think it took into account that cloth nappies are now made of materials other than cotton or that they would be used on more than one child. I think it also assumed a nappy life of 6 months before being replaced & that 40 nappies were being used per child.

It's already been shown to be utterly flawed but still gets treated as gospel in some quarters. There's supposed to be a new report coming out soon & I think there'll be a lot of us taking part in nearlythere's survey too.

GreebosWhiskers Tue 10-Jul-07 11:45:19

And it also assumed that it would take one hour to iron 12 flat terry squares

casbie Tue 10-Jul-07 12:02:54

support wen if you use real nappies!

meandmyflyingmachine Tue 10-Jul-07 12:07:36

Ironing nappies.


Pixiefish Tue 10-Jul-07 12:10:31

iirc the sample they used was something like 12 real nappy users and 2000 dispicable users.

the report is quite old now and is seriously flawed. They also used Real nappy users who weren't actually using real nappies at the time but had done in the past-

Oh and guess who one of the comissioners was- yup- pampers

NannyL Tue 10-Jul-07 18:57:43

this is my opinion on the report...

which i have read pretty much cover to cover

Here is the link should you want to read it:

you will see that this is May 2005 and one of the biggest studies of its kind. Also the one that most people refer to.

You can read all 130ish pages, + 50 pages of appendix if you like.... OR i will summarise it for you for people who cant be bothered.


they assume that 1/3 of people wash their nappies at 90c (i disagree!) table5.7
they assume 10% of nappies are ironed (5.14.7)
they assume 60% of nappies are tumble dried.... (if you look it says their survey sugested that 19% of people tumble dry their nappies but because 75% of household use a dryer they decided to use a figure of 60% (off the top of their heads basicaly)(9.3.2)
they assume 50% of people add softner to their nappies im sure anyone who uses nappies KNOWS that you do NOT ever add softner to nappies cause it stops them from absorbing.... (also consider the enivironmental impact of the softner.... and of manufacturing the softener.... and of driving to sthe supermarket to by the softener and of the softener going down the drain etc etc) (5.14.5)

It also assumes most people SOAK their nappies and allows 10 litres of water per day.... on top of 75 litres per washing machine load.... a large overestimate on the amount of water most modern machines, having recently got a new washing machine trust me i KNOW, so 85 litres of water per day (5.14.2)

They assume that people have 47.5 'terry nappies' nappies per 6 months (9.3.5)...
and then asses the full environmental impact of manufacturing all that cotton to make 47.5 nappies per 6 months.... and its the [b]MANUFACTURE and water used during manufacture that is basically the major environmetal 'problem / issue with' washables[/b]

also they acknowledge and justify this figure and in the same sentance say that actualy only an average of 40 nappies are bought for the LIFE of the child (personaly i cant believe that is an accuare average.... does anyone know anyone with more than 40 nappies?... EVERY person i know has LOADS less)

Its is assumed that 12 nappies are washed at a time (5.14.7) and that it takes a WHOLE HOUR to iron 12 cotton nappies.... and they use that figure of electricity... ie an iron on for an hour to iron 12 cotton sqaures..... [maybe 12 seconds would be more accurate? or 0 seconds for ironing nappies!]

FOR disposable nappies they assume just over 4 (4.05) nappies per day... this is a LOW estimate IMO especially when you consider new born babies (9.1)

In the summary they conclude that reuasable users should reduce they energy they use washing and drying nappies.

SO..... they DO over estimate the washing temperatures, water use, tumble dryer use and iron....

they also allow for FAR too many nappies being manufactured (washables) and asses the environmental imopat of the commercial manufacture of the cotton...

(no mention of bamboo which is a much more environmantally friendly material and becoming increasing popular with washable nappies)
then there is the fact that loads of people who choose washables are 'environmentally aware' people who are likely to be using less than 'conventional' washing detergents... such as soap nuts or eco balls, and are likely to be using more energy effiecient machines, due to the way they think.

the fact that they only allow for 12 nappies being washed per load then 60% tumble dried (when only 19% of their survey suggested they tumble dried their nappys, AND allowed 1 hour of electric for the iron per load).... yet allow for the maufacture of nearly 200 nappier PER CHILD just shoes how rediculosue this whole study was!

tissy Tue 10-Jul-07 19:13:01

well done, NannyL, that is a fantastic summary.

That study had me fuming!

beansontoast Wed 11-Jul-07 10:23:35

oh!... but i did iron my nappies..over and over..and also the liners before i put them in...and the newspaper before i sat down to read them leisurely.

(laughing alot at own joke emoticon)

rarrie Wed 11-Jul-07 21:53:33

Excellent points NannyL... but also to add that it assumes that each child has brand new nappies, whereas most people I know resuse them on subsequent children... and this was not considered.

grannyslippers Thu 12-Jul-07 20:18:44

There's been a recent Which report on nappies - details on their website here. You have to subscribe to get comparative tests but it seems quite fair, apart from insisting that cloth nappies have to be soaked - that would be enough to put me (a lazy dry-pailer) off!

Stargazing Thu 12-Jul-07 20:52:21

I do soak my nappies - is this bad, environmentally? I recycle water in just about every other way (save water from cooking veg to water plants, or even re-use etc etc) - would this make up for it a bit?

casbie Fri 13-Jul-07 08:44:18

yes, but water is a re-newable resource!

so it electricity and cotton/bamboo etc.

common sense determinds that this usage is better than using paper (renewable but takes longer to grow) and plastic (non-renewable) nappies which are USED ONCE and then SENT TO THE BIN.

i've used washable nappies on all three babies and spent around £300 in nappies and NO LANDFILL! as they are passsed on/sent to compost.

how much compariatively does dispos cost? much more in finacial and enviromental terms.

how much 'energy' is used to wash the nappies is a very big, large red herring!

severusseamonstersaysRIPharry Fri 13-Jul-07 08:56:41

I agree that they got it wrong, I was given most of my nappies etc when I had my first, and I'm now expecting my fourth. all of them will or have used the same nappies.
I have replaced a few wraps etc, but surely bith economically and environmentally itg is a better choice?

btw I have always dry pailed, occasionally do a 60, occasionally tumble dry when desperate but NEVER ironed or used fabric softener. I also use about 1/2 the recommended amount of detergent and am currently faffing about with various 'green' detergents.
I do do a rinse first though...

MrsJohnClaireCusack Fri 13-Jul-07 09:17:52

someone in a small town here (in NZ) has a method of composting disposable nappies and actually making them into suitable garden compost . some details

One would hope that maybe the NZ government (or private investors) would put some money behind it and encourage the inventors to go worldwide with it as it would be brilliant (and a far better use of money here than most of the rubbish they end up chucking money at - rugby stadiums etc. - also could be a major money spinner for a small country). But I'm not holding my breath. They have received no funding thus far. WHY? YOu'd think it would be grounbreaking! anyhow, am keeping my eye on for when I can start using it (not quite local enough yet)

vonsudenfed Fri 13-Jul-07 13:22:55

And as someone said on another thread, the result of even their flawed, bamboo-less, insane survey, is that if you wash at 60 degrees and don't tumble dry, then reusables have a lower ecological impact.

So spend the money on an information campaign, telling people that they don't have to be boiled, tumbled and, god forbid, ironed!

cazzybabs Fri 13-Jul-07 13:29:01

Oh lord people iron nappies - how to they have time? Do they get to enjoy their real nappy clothed babies.

We wash at 60 - don't soak, tumbledry and iron.

I also don;t have to drive to the supermarket to buy nappies - nor do lorries have to deliver them to the supermarket. I also read that real nappy babnies are easy/quicker to potty train.

I think the study was written by disposible using people to make themselves feel better.

casbie Fri 13-Jul-07 14:16:27

i have a feeling that the dispo nappy companies are taking a great dislike to WRAP, as they are gov. funded cloth nappy promoters, and this report was to muddy the waters again.

on Radio 4 the other day they were trying to get WRAP to admit to failure and not worth getting funding... all because of this stupid report!


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