Added: 24.01.2011 10:51
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Waste reduction: disposable dipers vs. clothnappies

Having a one-year-old baby has made me think about all the waste that is produced in families with small children. We are using disposable diapers; 6 to 8 in a day. That makes 180 to 248 diapers in a month. Just think about it. How many tons waste in one year, in one single city in Finland are produced? Too much!

As an environmental engineer I am aware that we should reduce consumption and reduce producing waste for the common good. Education and awareness in the area of waste and waste management is in increasingly important in growing societies. But the question is; why I don’t use clothnappies instead of disposable diapers, although I know it would be better option? Unfortunately because no-one have made me to do it. Stupid reason, don’t you think?

When you get a baby, nurses in the maternity ward are teaching you how to take care of the little one before they let you go home. They show how to feed it, how to dress it and how to change diapers. Particularly how to change disposable diapers. Young mothers with their first babies do what they are told to do. Of course, why wouldn’t they because everything is new to them. That’s why I’m suggesting that in future hospitals invest to clothnappies and train nurses to use them. And finally, nurses will tutor young mothers and their babies to use ecological option of diapers.

In Finland we are lucky and all mothers get maternity grant from KELA. Most mothers choose maternity package instead of money. That package includes also cloth nappy set and instruction leaf. But still, most families need more reasons to start using clothnappies. We need to get clothnappies more popular and easier to get. In grocery shops, there are many options, many brands of diapers but how many times you have seen a clothnappies next to Libero, Pampers etc? I haven’t seen a single time! And that is where we should improve; get clothnappies closer to consumers. As in a old saying, “you don’t miss those things that you don’t see”. So if we make clothnappies more noticeable, maybe producing waste would reduce at least one sector.

Also, people maybe need a bit of shock therapy. We could make for example a large pile of disposable diapers in Keskustori, the city center of Tampere, just to make people realize how much can a single baby produce waste in one year. I don’t know about others, but for me it would work!

Modified 2011-01-31 13:28:52

Your idea/solution in one sentence: Consumers have to get more information about using clothnappies istead of disposable diapers in order to reduce waste produsing.

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Another problem disposable diapers were loosely connected to (in Czech Republic) was problem with testical development and low sperm production. Use of disposable, soft and absorbing diapers does not push children to learn to live without them. Long lasting use was suspected to cause, due to higher temperature in the diaper, disturbance in the testical tissue development and reproduction problems in the future.
Besides the huge waste issue, I found a CBC News-Health document on the composition of the disposable diapers. Unfortunatelly, diapers manufacteures are not obliged to describe in detail the chemicals their product contains as it is neccessary for cosmetics. That is a problem, because you never know what is hidden behind a chemical "brand name".
It was found by Andersen Laboratories already in 1999 that diapers emissions can cause asthma-like symptoms and other respiratory problems. Other chemicals emitted from diapers were identified as xylene and ethyl benzene (suspected endocrine, neurological and respiratory toxin), styren (linked to cancer) or isopropylene (neurotoxin).
Furthermore, chemicals present together with musk fragrances, oils and moisturizers can cause rash to sensitive baby skin linked to yet another oil or lotion use. (