Benefits chart of using reusable cloth nappies

Lifecycle Analysis of Disposable vs Reusable Cloth Nappies

DEFRA, the Government Department for Food and Rural Affairs, has recently published a new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) analysing and comparing the environmental impact of single use, disposable nappies vs reusable cloth nappies. The last assessment of this kind was undertaken in 2008, meaning the figures and results were out of date for the current UK nappy market. 

While disposable nappies are convenient, they also come with a significant environmental impact due to their production, usage, and disposal. On the other hand, reusable cloth nappies are eco-friendly, cost-effective, and sustainable, but they require frequent washing, which has an impact on water usage and energy consumption. This report includes the impact of washing and drying cloth nappies in their overall carbon footprint, as well as the materials and production, production waste and end of life impact of both single use and reusable nappies.

This report found that over a 2.5 year period, cloth nappies have a 25% lower carbon footprint than disposables. The carbon footprint for reusable nappies for this time is 344.57kg CO2eq, while for single use nappies is 456.91kg CO2eq. The main contributor to the reusable nappy figure was washing and drying, which accounted for 85.13% (298.34kg CO2eq), while the main disposable nappy factors were materials and production at 63.37% (289.53kg CO2eq) and end of life at 32.66% (148.24kg CO2eq). 

Overall, as well as having a lower carbon footprint, reusable cloth nappies also use less raw materials (97.5% less!) and fossil fuels (27% less). 

In conclusion, reusable cloth nappies have been proven to be better for the environment than disposables, even considering the impact of extra washing and drying. 

Please read the report here and make an informed decision for yourself. 

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