The title disposable diaper innately connotes a negative environmental image, right? It’s in the name itself. Anything that ends up disposable or being thrown in the trash has to be bad for the environment. Well, while this is mostly true, there are important caveats to consider when drawing this hard mental line between what’s good and bad for the environment. When it comes to disposable diapers, specifically, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to their environmental impact.
Understanding the complexity of a carbon footprint and how the lifecycle of a product impacts a carbon footprint is important to discovering just how eco-friendly your diaper decision really is.
The Short Answer
The short answer to this question is: it depends. Historically, no, disposable diapers are not a very eco-friendly product. However, in recent years there have been a series of activities and a variety of advancements that have created a diaper industry that puts a heavier emphasis on creating eco-friendly and sustainable products.
One such development has been the increase in environmental regulations on manufacturing operations. This begins with the harvesting of raw materials and extends throughout the entirety of the production process. But going beyond the creation and manufacturing of the diapers, is what happens to them post-consumer-use.
This is where things become additionally complex when it comes to disposable diapers. While in most places disposable diapers end up in a land-fill, the type of diaper makes a big difference. This is why natural diapers are quickly becoming a favorite amongst parents and the environmentally conscious alike.
The Benefits of Natural Diapers
It seems like every industry is ‘going natural.’ So much so, it sometimes feels like it’s just for the buzz-words and the press. The reality though, is that there is a real push in almost every industry to replace outdated processes and operations with newer, modernized, more sustainable and eco-friendly solutions.
Natural diapers are just one example of how this push for sustainability is having a truly positive impact. Either way the result is good for parents, kids, and mother earth alike. Firstly, modern natural diapers are made with biodegradable materials that are softer on the skin. This helps reduce the chance of diaper rash, or irritating other skin conditions like eczema. Additionally, the biodegradable material means that even the diapers that do end up in landfills decompose at a faster rate than the surrounding waste.
Of course, eliminating diapers from landfills altogether is the ultimate goal. In some regions, biodegradable waste can be buried outside of landfills. This means that in those regions, parents can contribute to the effort in reducing landfill waste one dirty diaper at a time.
Technology and Innovation
Technology and innovation are present in virtually every industry that exists today. Diapers included. The innovations and technology in the diaper industry revolve around baby comfortability, environmental sustainability, convenience, and ease of use.
The first of these should make sense, seeing that the end-user, or baby child, is the priority for the person who is both the parent and the purchase maker. If the baby is happy, the parent is happy.
Environmental sustainability is another main priority for diaper manufacturers in the modern economy. Creating a sustainable disposable diaper that reduces the carbon footprint of a household and gives the modern parent a convenient substitute to cloth diapers creates value on multiple levels.
While cloth diapers are typically regarded as a more eco-friendly option to disposable diapers, this very much depends on the laundering processes a household employs, and how many uses the cloth-diaper sees. When factoring in the average utility costs (both environmentally and financially) involved in cloth-diaper maintenance, it’s apparent that natural disposable diapers are a more eco-friendly option.
How it all Comes Together
Putting it all together, disposable diapers can be eco-friendly. It just depends on which brand of diaper you choose. Natural diapers have emerged as a favorite among consumers because of their cost-effective durability, the comfort and absorption power they provide, and their environmental sustainability.
These same efforts are mirrored in the science and technology that drive product innovation in the diaper and waste-reduction industry. Some of the most radical innovations in this industry are geared toward eliminating diapers from landfills entirely. The most notable of these efforts comes from Italy where they’re already able to recycle diapers post-consumer-use.
Italy isn’t the only place where this is a focus, though. There are some programs even within the United States aimed at developing energy recovery programs using techniques like waste-incineration.
A few Final Thoughts
Natural and organic products are swiftly becoming top performers in the marketplace across industries and fields. This is due, in part, to the emphasis that a more informed consumer base places on clean ingredients, eco-friendly products, and organic options.
Natural diapers that are biodegradable, easy on baby skin, and extra-absorbent are changing the game and could lead us into a future wherein landfills are diaper-free.