Reusable Nappies vs Disposable Ones

Reusable Nappies vs disposable: the verdict ?

When you're thinking about what supplies you need for your little one, a nappy is one of the first things that crosses your mind. On average you will need to change your baby's nappy about 6000 times before your baby finally gets the hang of potty training.

It takes toddlers two and a half years to finally get out of nappies. This is why it’s so important to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of the type of nappy you are going to consider for your little arrival from both an environmental and financial standpoint. Other factors also include the fabric and health benefits, convenience of use ( is it adjustable ) or how many times do I need to put washable nappies through my washing machine?

What about the environment?

The world has evolved to a state of environmental consciousness and as individuals, we must all do our part to ensure that we are not contributing to the problem but rather helping with the solution. The irony lies at birth and the kind of world you want to leave for your new addition. It can take a whopping 500 years for a disposable nappy to fully decompose.

Your baby will use an average of 6000 nappies before they are potty trained. That’s a legacy of waste and something that will live on for a very long time, not only that it takes a huge amount of energy to produce them. Put things into perspective, around 30 litres of water are used per disposable diaper, that’s 180 000 litres of water per child if someone were to choose the disposable route.

Each year there are three billion disposable nappies in total added to landfills. That contributes a total of 3% of all household waste. When you also consider the 500-year decomposing period for disposable nappies, 3% becomes a whole lot more significant.  

So, what’s the reusable catch?! Well, clearly from an environmental point it’s a homerun, reusable diapers do create a little bit of pollution when produced, but a whole lot less than disposable ones. Washable diapers consume far less water during production, around 2.3 times less to be exact or 12 litres. We reckon for a new arrival you would need 20 reusable diapers considering a change every 2-3 hours. That’s a huge difference in water consumption during manufacturing, around 179 700 litres less!

We know what you’re thinking, what about the endless washing? Well detergents and washing machines have come a long way so now you can ensure your diaper has been completely sterilised in a single wash. Yes, it does add extra amounts of water usage, per load a medium sized machine uses 150 litres. If we calculate based on a daily wash, then over the course of 2 and a half years the water adds up. Even with all those washes though that’s 55 000 litres, almost 130 000 litres less than the disposable route.

Let’s talk money.

Another factor to consider when choosing the best nappy for your child is the financial aspect. Nappies are a significant part of the expense which inevitably add up over time. Alright, so upfront disposable nappies win! They are cheap and easy, I mean who really wants to browse through endless baby designer catalogues when the supermarket option looks you in the eye with all of its ease and screams - buy me!

However, they end up costing the average family $1 500 more after you’ve taken your detergents and diaper inserts into account.

It’s pretty clear, disposable nappies have it in their name, one time one use.

Once you get the hang of them, reusable nappies are rinse, dry and repeat. It doesn’t stop there, with all of today’s cleaning high tech glory, reusable nappies can be used for future children. This is where it really adds up.


Which one is better?

The disposable nappy

The good

  • Convenient and sometimes fun to basketball them into a nearby bin.
  • Big mainstream variety.
  • Easy to get your hands on, light and have some high tech ultra-absorbent materials.
  • Initially cost effective (in the first two months)
  • No need to be washed and dried.

The Ugly

  • Terrible impact on the environment, 6 000 diapers which outlive everyone as they take 500 years to rot away.
  • It’s hard to make the right informed choice. Most packs list the same unique spell bounding ways they can transform the diaper industry losing you and other daring readers in the small print.
  • The cost of buying disposable nappies adds up over time especially when you intend to have more than one child.
  • Disposable nappies lead to nappy rash with some of the chemicals they use in production.
  • More difficult to potty train, absorbency is advertised as a good thing but it’s not great when it comes to early potty training.
  • Not all disposable nappies have a similar fate. Some end up polluting our beaches, parks or wherever people feel it’s ok to leave them. No more nappies in the sea please.

The reusable nappy

The good

  • Environmental impact is significantly less. Switching to reusable ones cuts down on a tremendous amount of waste.
  • Designs, patterns and colours are endless. One for the cool baby.
  • Functionality and manufacturing miracles mean that often you can just wash the inserts until things get real messy.
  • Much cheaper in the long run.
  • Many of them are now lined with softer fabrics, i.e. charcoal bamboo which has a heap of microbial properties, helping contain your loved one’s smelly surprise.
  • Natural fabrics are less likely to cause rashes due to the absence of chemicals, plastics, and dyes.

The Ugly

  • It can be a hassle washing and drying your nappies.
  • Less absorbency, so changing them more often might be necessary.
  • Initial higher price, it’s a mini investment.
  • Managing them on the move when you don’t have access to a washing machine can be tricky.
  • You need to make sure they are washed properly.

What’s the verdict?

Despite their ease of use and lower costs (initially) however practical they may be, disposable nappies have such an environmental impact. As far as sustainability is concerned, and creating a better world for our young, there’s simply no dilemma. With today’s leaps and bounds with detergents and how efficient washing machines are, there’s no longer a need to boil nappies over a stove which was necessary 50 or so years ago. We now live where it’s time to take action to slow down the amount of waste we produce and for the extra effort of washing it’s totally worth it.

Reusable Nappies vs Disposable Ones