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UK admits cloth nappies just as bad as disposables

UK Government admits cloth nappies are just as bad for the environment as disposable nappies

9th July 2007

The announcement in the UK of a Government U-turn on their support for cloth nappies is a victory for parental choice according to the manufacturers of Huggies nappies Kimberly-Clark.

The decision follows a four-year research project at a cost of millions of pounds which found that the impact of burying disposable nappies in landfill sites was matched by the energy consumed and greenhouse gases generated by washing reusables or transporting them to laundries.

The Life Cycle Analysis was conducted by the Environment Agency and concluded that there was no significant difference between any of the environmental impacts of the disposable, home use reusable and commercial laundry systems that were assessed.

This study has been supported under Brisbane conditions. As the Australian Consumers Association’s “Guide to Baby Products” says: “Who’s to say what’s more damaging? To create more solid waste? To use more water and energy?”

The UK Government’s three year real nappy campaign formed a major part of their "waste minimisation" programme at a reported cost of £2.3million. However this appears not to include grants of around £100,000 a time paid by the UK Treasury to local councils to encourage their own real nappy promotions.

Similar local council funding schemes are now in evidence around New Zealand. Christchurch, Waitakere, South Taranaki and Gisborne have introduced payment schemes to encourage people to use cloth nappies. One council has budgeted $25,000 to run the scheme.

However the lesson from the UK is clear, despite significant funding - the use of disposable nappies has continued to increase. Whilst parents may accept the initial cloth nappy promotion, there is little correlation with ongoing use because parents continue to value their babies’ comfort and skin health.

Considering that food waste and demolition / construction waste represent almost half of waste to landfill whilst nappies contribute around 1.9%, perhaps this would be a more productive area of focus and would make better use of rate payers money?

In the UK, other published figures show that, the campaign was a failure reducing waste to landfill by only 22% of its target or less than a twentieth of one per cent of household rubbish sent to landfill each year.

Kimberly-Clark has put much effort into researching and improving our Huggies nappies to provide parents with the best possible products while we continually try to minimize their environmental impacts. The bulk of a disposable nappy has reduced by more than 50% over the past five years through improved product design. We have implemented leading edge manufacturing processes to improve our sustainability and we only use the waste from renewable pine plantations to make our nappies. We take our role as product stewards seriously.

Our focus is on providing parents with the best nappy to keep babies dry, comfortable and happy with the minimum impact on the environment.

We do not believe parents should be made to feel guilty about which type of nappy they choose to buy on environmental grounds because waste to landfill is just one part of the story.


© Scoop Media

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