Beyond the Monetary Savings of Cloth Diapers

While many families are initially drawn to cloth diapers when they discover the economic benefits, the environmental impact is perhaps of even greater importance. Let’s crunch some numbers to get an idea of how disposable diapers stack up.

If we estimate the average potty training age to be 2.5 years old and an average of 8 diaper changes in a 24 hour period, the total number of diapers used per child is roughly 7,300. Try to imagine how big a pile of 7,300 disposable diapers would be…a relatively large pile, right? The Real Diaper Association estimates that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S. 27.4 BILLION. Let that number sink in for a second. Now consider that it takes a single disposable diaper anywhere from 250 to 500 YEARS to decompose, and we begin to comprehend the magnitude of this problem. Diapers that I wore as a baby are still here on this earth! Diapers that my mom wore are still here on this earth and will continue to be for a long, long time. So we are dumping waste upon years and years of waste…Mother Earth cannot sustain this load indefinitely! Something has got to give, right?

And that is only looking at the impact AFTER the disposable diaper is soiled and tossed in the trash. If we examine the resources used to make disposable diapers, it only gets worse. For example check out these statistics from the Real Diaper Association (2012):

  • Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.
  • The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth.
  • Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce     disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR.

Yikes! And if that isn’t shocking enough check out the list of common chemical ingredients found in disposable diapers: Polyethylene film, polypropylene plastic, bleached paper pulp, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, hot melts (glue), elastic, cellulose
tissue, perfume, super absorbent polymers (SAP), dioxin and tributyl-tin (TBT). Most of these are highly toxic ingredients, yet we put them directly on the delicate skin of a newborn baby?!? There are more risks than just the threat of a diaper rash from these ingredients. Some of the above ingredients have been correlated with serious hormonal issues (TBT) and linked to cancer (Dioxin)!

Thankfully we have a viable, accessible, and readily available solution to this mess…cloth diapers! Three cheers for all you awesome cloth diapering families. Hip, hip, HOORAY! Know that you ARE changing the world, one cloth diaper at a time! So while you enjoy the monetary benefits of cloth diapers and revel in the cuteness factor, find comfort in that at a deeper level  you are preserving and protecting the earth. I don’t know about you, but a few extra loads of laundry a week seems more than manageable considering all that is at stake?

What comments have you gotten about using cloth diapers? Would love to hear your clever responses to those who think cloth diapers are gross or too much work?

-Sarah

Tags: Cloth Diapers, disposable diaper, disposable diapers, economic benefits, environmental impact, mother earth, raw materials, solid waste

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