NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 24, 2008

A new British government report found that old-fashioned reusable diapers damage the environment more than disposables knocking a recent push for the increased used of reusable diapers as green on its back, says The Sunday Times.

Researchers found that using washable diapers, hailed by councils throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them:

  • To reduce the impact of cloth diapers on climate change parents would have to hang wet diapers out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • While disposable diapers used over 2.5 years would have a global warming impact of 550 kilograms (1212 pounds) of CO2, reusable diapers produced 570 kilograms (1256 pounds) of CO2 on average.
  • But if parents used tumble dryers and washed the reusable diapers at 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit), the impact would spiral to 993 kilograms (2189 pounds) of CO2.

As a result, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is shelving any future plans for research on diapers.  Mainly because they are so embarrassed by the study's finding.  They have even instructed servants not to publicize the conclusions of the study and to adopt a "defensive" stance toward its conclusions, says the Times. 

Source: Marie Woolf, "Blow to image of 'green' reusable nappy," The Sunday Times, October 19, 2008.

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