We have a lot of friends who use cloth diapers, and I've heard some say that cloth diapers are actually more un-ecologically friendly than disposable diapers. I have a hard time buying that. I can find some sources going both ways online:
- From the blog, the Greenists
You’d think this figure would clearly mean that cloth diapers are the way to go. But when I looked up family cloth for yesterday’s post, I stumbled across an article from Times Online. The article says a study done by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in Britain didn’t deliver the expected answer. The results were so surprising that there was even an attempt to sweep them under the carpet.
From the article:
The report found that using washable nappies, hailed by councils throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them.
- From the site Dummies.com, the article Diapers: Cloth versus disposable
Washing cloth diapers uses fewer resources than you might think. It takes about the equivalent amount of water as flushing a toilet five times a day. And, cloth diapers have half the ecological footprint of disposables even when you throw in the energy your washing machine uses.
So... which is it? Are cloth or disposable diapers more "earth friendly"?
Now, I'm prophesying a lot of questions about what "more earth friendly" means... I'm open to suggestions. Here's some examples of at least some variables that I can think of:
- Disposables: primarily composed of polypropylene nonwovens and filled with wood pulp and SAP, examine biodegredation time, risk of pollution, land fill space...
- Cloth: made from cotton, though they are far more complex than the diapers my parents used on me, require many loads of laundry per day, detergent, perhaps pre-treatment, and a general "work flow." As an example, friends of ours dump any solids into the toilet, flush that and then put the diapers in a pail filled with water. When the pail is full, they dump it and flush that. The diapers are washed in cold water only once. Then washed again in warm with detergent, and then finally dried.
Again, this is a ballpark example of some of the factors involved. I'm not even sure I'm aware of all the factors involved to make a comparison; thus, for any answering via research, feel free to list and comment on the metrics listed in those who have studied this issue.