Even when we factor in the water and energy used to launder cloth diapers, in the full-cost accounting, from farm to factory to storefront, compared to cloth diapers, disposables:
- create 2.3 times more water waste;
- use 3.5 times more energy;
- use 8.3 times more non-renewable raw materials (like oil and minerals);
- use 90 times more renewable raw materials (like tree pulp and cotton); and
- use 4 to 30 times as much land for growing or mining raw materials.
One of the criticisms of cloth diapers is that they require “large amounts” of water to wash. We've seen estimates of up to 60,000 litres to cloth diaper one child. This amount of water is roughly equivalent to 5% of a total household's water usage.
This does seem like a lot of water but is relatively minimal compared to how much water is required to produce everyday consumables. Drink some coffee today? Growing the coffee beans for one cup of coffee requires more water than a single load of laundry!
A single disposable diaper, by contrast, requires 34 litres of water to manufacture. Multiply that water footprint by the thousands of disposables used to see that almost 300,000 litres are needed to diaper a child in disposables.
Happy Nappy is 85% more efficient than washing at home. Cloth diapering a child using our finely honed washing systems uses less than 10,000 litres! That's 30 times less water than with disposables!
Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills, and represent 30% of non-biodegradable waste. Each baby wearing disposable diapers creates about 1000 pounds of garbage a year... that is significant!
It is estimated that a typical disposable diaper remains in landfill for at least 500 years; if William Shakespeare wore disposables, his diapers would still be in the landfill today.
Also, consider that our landfill contains millions of tons untreated human waste, a breeding ground for diseases that could potentially contaminate our groundwater.
Oil is the raw material used for making the polyethylene plastic found in disposables. It takes roughly 1 cup of crude oil to make the plastic for 1 disposable diaper... that translates into 1,500 litres of oil turned into plastic for disposables for one child. More difficult to estimate is the additional energy used in the fabrication and packaging processes.
The importance of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels through our diaper choices cannot be overestimated. Recklessly wasteful use of oil threatens our global environmental security.
Ready to do your part? Remember the diapers you use are left for your children's, children's, children's, children's, children's, children's children...