As a Dad, a ‘Canny Scot’, and someone who cares about the environment; making the decision – as a family – to use real nappies with our children was an easy one!
Real nappies, what are they?
Real nappies – also known as reuseable nappies, washable nappies, or cloth nappies – are usually made from natural fibres like cotton, hemp and bamboo. They have evolved significantly over the past decade and have many benefits.
Gone are the clunky, terry cloths requiring safety pins and a serious interest in origami. Modern, real nappies come in a huge range of fun and funky designs – and usually velcro, poppers or elastic fastenings. They are no longer just for so-called ‘eco-conscious parents’ but every day Mums and Dads too.
So, what are the actual facts around nappy use in the UK?
Use of disposable nappies is still unquestionably the norm. Currently, 95% of parents in the UK still opt for the disposable option. However, there is evidence that using real nappies is a growing trend, with 15% of parents having at least tried them.
Why are disposable nappies a problem?
In the UK, we send in the region of 8 million disposable nappies to landfill every day. This equates to over 2.5 billion per year. Research suggests disposable nappies can take up to 500 years to breakdown when disposed of in landfill. As the disposable nappies break down they then release harmful greenhouse gases, like methane, which cause climate change. They can also secrete toxic substances, which can contaminate soils and watercourses.
It must be a nightmare to get them all washed and dried!
Not at all. Real nappies can be washed with the rest of your washing. Heavily soiled nappies can be easily pre-washed or soaked. On average, we wash our real nappies every 2-3 days.
Come rain, wind, or shine we always manage to get them dry. Getting into a routine keeps the steady flow of clean nappies circulating and becomes part and parcel of daily family life. It really is no hassle what-so-ever. I cannot reinforce this enough.
OK, so what exactly are the benefits?
Making the conversion to cloth is so simple. And the benefits of using real nappies are many, not just for the environment but for both parents and babies too.
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that those children who use cloth nappies become potty trained much quicker than those using disposables as they are more aware that they have been to the toilet.
Real nappies are made from natural materials, which help your child’s skin to breathe naturally as they do not contain any chemicals or gels.
- With so many different colours and designs real nappies look super cute!
- Using real nappies could save you up to £500 per child and this price will rise if the nappies are reused for subsequent children. An initial payment is required to buy all the reusables at the start of use, but this is a one-off and you won’t need to pay out for disposable nappies as part of the weekly shop. Although the one off cost for real nappies will be between £300-400; on average parents spend up to four times more than this amount over a two and a half year period.
- Overall the cost of purchasing the real nappies, then washing them (including the cost of detergents) and drying them (even if using a tumble dryer) is minimal compared to the cost of purchasing disposable nappies over the period between birth and potty training.
There is a vast network of second-hand nappy suppliers, which can reduce the cost even further.
Washing nappies at home is the cheapest option, but there are also nappy laundry services available which cost in the region of £8-10 per week.
For the Environment:
- It is predicted that a child will use between 4,000 and 6,000 nappies. WRAP (the Government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme) have calculated that households which use cloth nappies reduce their household waste by up to half compared to those continuing to use disposables.
Disposable nappies use up to three and a half times more energy to make compared to real nappies.
For more information about using real nappies, the Nappy Network, are a wonderful local organisation and resource, serving the Highlands, Islands and Moray.
Are you using real nappies too? Share your stories with us over on Three for the Sea Facebook page.