THE GOOD SHOPPING GUIDE

Ethical Brand Comparison Since 1999.

About.

Energy.

Money.

Fashion.

Ethical Tech.

Health & Beauty.

Ethical Home.

Food & Drink.

GET FULL TABLE WITH COMPLETE ETHICAL SCORING INFO

Ethical Comparison - Nappies

Three billion disposable nappies are thrown away every year in the UK – or 8 million every day – that’s a lot of waste to end up in landfill or, even worse, in the sea. Nappies can take hundreds of years to degrade, so reusable cloth nappies are a good environmentally-friendly alternative.

tool tip square top

Look out for our new sector-specific ‍‍‍Ethical Accreditation‍‍‍ ‍‍‍certification marks which now cover over 15 different consumer product sectors. These are additional to our original Ethical Company mark that features on the packaging of over 100 million consumer products every year.

The Ethical Company Organisation

Part of The Ethical Company Organisation

Bum fluff

The main disposable nappy brand in the UK is Procter & Gamble’s Pampers and most supermarkets now offer their own brands. The bulkiest component of disposable nappies (or diapers, as they are known in the US) is paper pulp fluff, the rising demand for which is beginning to threaten old-growth forests in Canada, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Valuable wetlands, moors and meadows risk being destroyed in the quest for new plantations.

Other components of nappies include plastics and chemicals derived from nonrenewable sources. There is controversy about the safety of some commonly-used chemicals such as the absorbing agent sodium polyacrylate. Babies with sensitive skin may react to absorbent gels.

Hygi‍‍‍‍‍‍ene

‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍The average baby gets through about 5,000 nappies on his or her way to being potty trained. Disposables are comm‍‍‍only binned or, much worse, flushed away. Putting them in the bin without first cleaning off waste is unhygienic and, though few people know it, actually illegal. Chucking them down the toilet happens far too commonly, and they can cause serious maintenance problems in sewers and sewage farms. Many of them also end up in the sea.

The nappy debate

‍‍‍‍‍‍In 2005 the Environment Agency published a report on the comparable environmental impact of disposable and reusable ‘terry’ nappies, which came to the controversial conclusion that there was little or no difference between the two. It‍‍‍ found that the use of fossil fuels involved in cleaning reusable nappies outweighed the impact of production for disposables, and suggested that parents should be free to choose the type of nappy that suits them best.

  • Nevertheless, the report recommended that nappy manufacturers should:
  • Consider using recycled paper in their products
  • Use renewable energy for the production
  • Seek out sustainable sources of pulp from managed forests
  • Investigate technology for recycling disposable nappies
  • Lower the weight of their products


The Women’s Environmental Network criticised the report, saying the research was ‘seriously flawed’. In particular, it drew attention to the recommendation that nappy companies aim to reduce the weight of their nappies, even though lighter superabsorbent polymers have a higher environmental impact. The Network suggests that the global warming potential of real nappies can be reduced by using an ‘A’ rated washing machine (see Good Home and Office, page 104), washing at 60ºC and air-drying rather than using a tumble dryer.

Buy our detailed Ethical Research Reports‍‍‍. S‍‍‍ee the findings behind companies’ ethical ratings, as featured in The Good Shopping Guide. Several different product sectors available covering hundreds of consumer brands.

 

We have created ethical comparison rankings for the following brands, based on the activities of the company group (see above tables): Bambino Mio, Bambo Nature, Beaming Baby, Boots Baby, Charlie Banana, GoVia, Huggies Pull-Ups/DryNites, ImseVimse, MOLTEX nature no.1, Naty, Pampers and TotsBots.


Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning we earn commission if you click through and make a purchase. Placement and use of these links has no bearing in terms of the ethical scores that we give to a brand.  All commission earned by The Good Shopping Guide is re-invested into the research carried out by The Ethical Company Organisation.

GET FULL TABLE WITH COMPLETE ETHICAL SCORING INFO

GET FULL TABLE WITH COMPLETE ETHICAL SCORING INFO

‍‍‍‍‍‍Reusables

Reusable nappies really do offer a viable alternative to disposables. Only a small percentage of UK parents use them, but there is much higher use of re-usables in North America and Australia.

Terries used to be seen as hard work, but washing machines have reduced this and there are plenty of nappy washing services available around the country, some run by local authorities. There are also many new varieties, with specially fitted shapes and pin-free fastening systems, and re-usable overpants for added safety and comfort. The Real Nappy Association advocates the use of thin liners placed inside a terry, allowing solid waste to be peeled away and safely disposed of. These are biodegradable.

Real nappies help to counter nappy rash as they are breathable. But perhaps the best argument for them is the saving in cash terms – total nappy expenditure has been estimated at £250 for re-usables compared with as much as £700 – £1,000 per baby for disposables.