Disposable Diapers – To Use Or Not To Use

Diapers, or nappies as they are called in the UK, were traditionally made of cloth. It was not many decades ago when disposable diapers came on the baby scene. Understandably, even with the poor quality of the first disposables, mums loved them. Before that, it was a cloth diaper, or improvisation.

The original disposable diapers were not a snug fit like today’s. They were unfitted, flat and uncomfortable for the baby, but not for mum. They were a great time saver and convenient for a hard pressed mother, and were much better for her than the traditional cloth diaper.

Disposables were much safer too. With cloth diapers, a type of safety pin was used to clip the diaper in place once fitted to the baby. Safety pin? Tell that to a baby boy who has had his future manhood threatened by an errant pin! Apart from that obvious problem, folding a cloth diaper to get a good fit was a task more suited to a waiter or waitress at the Ritz Hotel, trained in folding napkins in a decorative and consistent way. It was an acquired skill.

Disposable diapers were, and are, a breeze by comparison to the cloth originals. There is no doubting their convenience. They slip on easily, fit nicely nowadays, and are easily disposed of….as far as the parents are concerned. Out they go in the trash, instead of all the work and inconvenience involved in soaking and washing disposable diapers. Plus, of course, no lingering smells, so long as they are put in the trash outside quickly.

The Disadvantages Of Disposable Diapers

Disposable diapers are not without their downside though. While they are a wonderful convenience at home, once they are used and "disposed" they become an environmental problem. Here’s why:

1. More than 19 billion disposable diapers end up in landfills every year. That would be fine if they were bio-degradable, but they are not.

2. In the manufacture of disposable diapers, more than a million tons of wood pulp is used.

3. The manufacturing process creates a waste that includes dioxins, heavy metals and industrial solvents.

The full debate on whether to use disposable diapers should take these crucial factors into account, as they clearly have a damaging effect on the environment.

However, that debate should also include another side to the argument. With no disposable diapers, mums would use cloth diapers instead. Some would argue, and the disposable diaper manufacturers do, that the use of cloth diapers is equally damaging to the environment. In cleaning cloth diapers, some quite powerful chemicals are used, such as bleach, borax and other detergents. Additionally, the amount of water used is high, and the power used to heat that water to a disinfectant level is a drain on environmental resources.

Ultimately, we have to decide for ourselves what we think is best, as both arguments have some weight. Where I live, water needs to be preserved, and landfill is not a problem. But that is not always the case in other locations in the Philippines and the rest of the world.

Also: Cloth Diapers


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