Should you take for granted that washable nappies are the environmentally friendly choice?
I disagreed with the environment agency when they concluded there was little difference between washable nappies and disposables. I went for washables as there was plenty of room for improvement on the given’s in their study.
Approximately 8million disposables a day are thrown away with around 90% ending up in landfilli. For comparison they used leading brands of cotton nappies which is one of the world’s most polluting cropsii, where hemp and bamboo are much more sustainable crops – fast growing, hardy and pesticide free. They assumed nappies would be washed at 60 degrees, didn’t account for less frequent washes or environmentally friendly detergent or the difference made with a “AAA” rated washing machine. Obviously there is also the drying factor: line drying rather than tumble cuts down your impact dramatically. Change to a green electricity supplier as well and the result of the report would be very different. I have some great hemp and bamboo nappies, much more absorbent than cotton and in the case of bamboo, naturally antibacterial.
The only snag is that they take longer to dry, but choosing styles where the absorbent layers can be removed and dried separately speeds this up. The king of fast drying has to be pocket nappies – stuff them with absorbent material which then can be removed for drying. I have some that line dry indoors in a few hours!
So, that cleared up, what about greening up disposables? Various brands of “eco” disposables are now available made with varying percentages of compostable material. Moltex are probably the best, as far as materials used and the potential for degrading, but they won’t decompose in landfill so they need to be composted!
Or you could go all out and try or for tips on how to go about what would be ultimately the greenest solution – no nappies at all!
Birmingham city council offers a one off refund for using washables. Available locally: “Thyme Out” in Kings Heath for Moltex, “Hushabye Baby” in Cotteridge stock some washables. For washable nappy home demonstrations contact Su Crossland of Nappy Happy on 0845 652226 or go to and T. Whittall of Lollipop on 0121 5595981 or go to
i Women’s Environmental Network
ii Soil Association