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UK comparison of washable and disposable nappies (diapers) is flawed PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 May 2005 06:09
The myth keeps floating around that disposable nappies (diapers) are really no more environmentally harmful than washables. Most recently the British Environment Agency has done a report on it. As usual, the research left something to be desired, and the Women's Environment Network - who have done much pioneering work in women's health and environment issues - have written a rebuttal.
The lifecycle analysis (LCA) for the Environment Agency has taken four years and cost more than £200,000 and concludes there is “no significant difference between any of the environmental impacts”. But the conclusion is based on poor quality data and misses the point of its own findings. “This lifecycle analysis is a wasted opportunity to put the long-standing debate about nappies and the environment to rest,” says WEN’s Ann Link. “It says what most other LCAs have: that both systems use similar amounts of energy but the disposable system uses more materials and puts more into landfill. But it has missed the point of its own findings. Even in its current flawed state it shows that parents who use cloth nappies can save waste confident in the knowledge that washing them will cause no more global warming than disposable nappies. “The biggest impacts it identifies are all to do with energy production and use - abiotic resource depletion (fossil fuel use), global warming and acidification - yet if parents use 24 nappies and follow manufacturers' instructions to wash at 60oC using an A rated washing machine they will have approximately 24% less impact on global warming than the report says.” Read the rest of the article which includes detailed tables and footnotes.
Full Disclosure: I am a partner in a business that wholesales organic and natural baby products, including both washable nappies (diapers) and the best of the disposables. (