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One of my early posts on Moral Fibres was my experience of using reusable/washable nappies on my daughter. At that point we were using 100% reusables, but at around the 18 month old mark we found that, despite our best efforts with booster pads, using reusables over night was no longer working.
With no other real solutions (waking up in the night to change nappies is not an option!) we switched to using a disposable overnight, which we also use now during bouts of bad nappy rash (particularly during teething!). I’ve been using the more eco friendly disposable nappies on the market. They are a little more expensive than other nappies, but as we only use one pack of nappies a month I don’t mind the little extra spend.
I really love my BumGenius washable nappies, but if reusables don’t work for you or you’re not into the idea of them then I thought I’d do a round-up of the eco friendly disposable nappies available in the UK.
Before I start, I do have some things to point out about eco friendly disposable nappies. My main gripe them is that they say they are biodegradable, however due to the way landfill works, nothing truly biodegrades in landfill. Oxygen is required for biodegradable matter to break down yet most landfill sites are so tightly packed that they do not let much or any air in, so any biodegradation that does take place does so very slowly, or it is mummified. Add to this the fact that biodegradable items in landfill release a considerable amount of the greenhouse gas methane, making biodegradable nappies not the best for the environment.
You might be tempted to compost nappies labelled as biodegradable instead. Yet according to recyclenow you cannot compost biodegradable nappies in a compost bin as it poses a health risk.
Other sources say you can compost a biodegradable nappy at home as long as you don’t compost soiled nappies, so it’s confusing to know what to do. Even if you can compost nappies, then if you are using disposables full-time, or even using them part-time like us, then you’d need a pretty massive composter to hold that many nappies over a sustained period, as well as the mixed waste that composters require. I’d also imagine nappies taking quite a long time to decompose in a standard composter, so you might end up with a mountain before long.
However, I’m not completely down on disposable nappies. The plus points with eco friendly disposable nappies are that they are typically made with far fewer chemicals than other nappies, which is good for the environment and your baby’s skin. They also tend to made from more renewable resources, and made more ethically (Proctor & Gamble, who make Pampers, are well-known for animal testing, and perhaps more lesser known – poor workers’ rights, as well as using non-renewable resources). So here is my run-down of the eco friendly disposable nappies available in the UK:
Eco Friendly Disposable Nappies Guide:
Moltex Oko – Moltex say their production process is eco friendly and that their nappies are made with more than 50% renewable resources from controlled cultivation. The nappies are also chlorine free, and contains no perfumes and minimal amounts of absorbent gels. Apparently two parts of the nappy are also biodegradable – the inner fluff and the backsheet, if you feel inclined to separate them.
Bambo Nature – Danish made Bambo nappies top the Ethical Consumer’s league table of disposable nappies, and is the only nappy to be independently accredited – by the Nordic Swan eco label. Bambo Nature has an absorbent starch core, rather than a chemical based core, and avoids perfumes and other such chemicals, including chlorine. The nappies are 80% biodegradable, and according to their website the wood is derived from sustainable forestry
Naty Nature Care Nappies – Swedish made Naty nappies are made from 70% natural materials, and are also 100% GM, chlorine and fragrance free. Although not gel-free, they claim to be based on biodegradable materials, and the nappy itself is 70% biodegradable. We personally use Naty nappies, and can verify that we don’t get any leaks overnight, which is the ultimate test for a nappy!
Beaming Baby – Beaming Baby claim their chlorine free nappies contain 30% less chemicals than standard disposable nappies. The absorbent layer inside the nappy does contain gel, but is primarily made from very finely shredded paper, which has the consistency of cotton wool. The nappies are 65% biodegradable.
Tushies – Tushies are the only nappy to use absolutely no gel at all, relying on wood pulp and cotton for absorbency. As such they are thicker than most disposable nappies on the market, but without any chemical gels. Tushies are 50% biodegradable.
Sainsbury’s also make an own-brand eco friendly disposable nappy, but I’m not sure what they mean by this as there is no information on the website apart from a tiny picture that you can’t enlarge. If anyone knows any further details about these nappies then do let me know!
The other alternative if you didn’t want to go down the all washable or all disposable route is gNappies – which intriguingly are a reusable/disposable hybrid. gNappies feature washable covers with disposable inserts. The inserts are biodegradable, and can be placed in a home composter (not soiled ones). gNappies say an insert can break down in typically 50-150 days. The inserts are much smaller than conventional nappies however if you’re getting through around 5-7 inserts a day (around 40 a week) then depending on the size of your compost bin then it may be that your composter may fill quicker than you can make compost.
My opinion? It’s difficult to know what the best option is. If you don’t use washable nappies and don’t want the extra spend of buying eco friendly disposable nappies all the time then I wouldn’t worry about using non eco friendly labelled nappies. I know washables aren’t for everyone, and budgets don’t often stretch to more expensive nappies which have at best a tiny added advantage over other nappies.
As parents, there are a million other things to feel guilty about without worrying about which nappies you use, and there are plenty of other more beneficial ways in which you can help the environment (just read the Moral Fibres archive for some inspiration!). However, if you use washable nappies and are looking for a nappy just for night-time use then the eco friendly disposable nappies fit the bill.