Go natural by binning the disposable nappy

Written by lee johnson Google
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Can going green save you some cash?

Go natural by binning the disposable nappy
Although they're affordable and easy to use, disposable nappies won't win any beauty contests. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

"Unlike disposables, reusable nappies put parents in control of the impact they have on the environment, with the carbon savings directly related to how you choose to wash your reusable nappies."

— Go Real, a free information service on the benefits of real nappies.

The plethora of costs associated with raising a child can put a lot of undue strain on your household. One of the major expenses you will encounter during the first year is the cost of nappies. In recent memory disposable nappies have been favoured by most parents for their convenience, and there are scores of companies competing to sell you the 4,000 nappies your baby is likely to need before they’re potty trained. Many environmentally-conscious mothers have switched to reusable nappies, horrified by the fact that the UK throws away around three billion disposable nappies per year, with 90 percent heading to the landfill. These eco-warriors are joined by the scores of frugal mothers who claim that reusable nappies are a great way to look after the pennies.

The cost

Go natural by binning the disposable nappy
(Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Disposable nappies are easier to deal with than reusable ones, but they do carry significant costs. Buying around 4,000 nappies, even in jumbo, savings-friendly packs is bound to be pretty expensive for your household. Through tough financial times it’s always worth looking at alternative ways to save cash, and when you have clothes, prams, cots and a whole new world of costs to worry about as well, reusable nappies seem an attractive financial prospect.

Finding out the facts is the only way to objectively weigh up the financial benefits of going reusable. Money Saving Expert undertook a thorough analysis of the costs of reusable nappies versus their disposable counterparts and found that “as a ball-park figure over the two and a half years your child’s in nappies you’d pay roughly £900 on disposables and £400 on re-usables.” That equates to a saving of £500, and takes into account the costs of washing the nappies, and four weeks’ worth of disposables used for convenience. You can save more money if you don’t resort to disposables at all, and if you keep the reusable ones for your next child.

The only fiscal downside to reusable nappies is that you need to spend around £80 up front to get your baby enough of them. Go Real, an information service designed to promote “real” (reusable) nappies, adds that “many Local Authorities fund incentive schemes to help parents with the cost of the essentials you need to get started.” This is usefully done through vouchers or cashback offers.

The environment

Go natural by binning the disposable nappy
(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Environmentally conscious mothers may already be concerned about the impact of having a child on the natural environment. The fact that three billion nappies are thrown out per year in the UK means a lot of rotting, synthetic waste-containers that end up breeding bacteria in land-fills. However, when it comes to the environment, conflicting information is commonplace (many people deny man-made global warming altogether, for example) and it can be hard to get to the facts.

The main risk to the environment posed by disposable nappies is the carbon dioxide released during their manufacture. Aside from this, the methane produced from the waste in one baby’s 4,000 nappies being left in landfill sites is an additional problem, contributing as much to global warming as a car driving 1,800 miles. You can buy biodegradable disposable nappies to reduce the impact on the earth, but the methane would still be an issue. The Environment Agency undertook a “Life Cycle Analysis” back in 2008 to determine the environmental impact of reusable nappies in comparison to disposables. The results show that if you only wash nappies in full loads, don’t tumble dry and reuse them again for your next child, you “would lower the global warming impact by 40 percent.” However, if you always tumble dry and wash at 90 instead of 60, then the impact on global warming is increased by 75 percent. This shows that it is clearly not the purchase that makes the difference, but how you deal with them afterwards.

The comfort

You wouldn’t want somebody to replace your collection of underwear without thinking about how comfortable the new ones are, and you shouldn’t do the same to your baby. The old days of rags held together by enormous safety pins are long gone, and now most reusable nappies are virtually the same as disposable counterparts. Some people are worried about the risk of nappy rash, however, which has been traditionally associated with reusable nappies.

Reusable nappies are made from natural materials such as hemp and bamboo, and don’t contain any synthetic and potentially dangerous chemicals. Their design essentially makes them a cushion for your baby’s bum, which can be a big help during those unsure first steps. The link with nappy rash has now been widely discredited, with WRAP [Waste and Resources Action Programme] advising that "the frequency with which nappies are changed is much more important.”

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