An updated Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) by Defra has this week concluded that reusable nappies produce 25% less CO2 than single-use equivalents.
Life Cycle Assessment of Disposable and Reusable Nappies in the UK 2023 aimed to ‘determine the cumulative environmental impact of the use of a disposable and a reusable nappy system for the first 2.5 years of a child’s life’.
The report found that, even when factoring in washing and drying, reusables have a lower global warming potential (344.57kg CO2eq) than single-use nappies (456.91kg CO2eq).
The authors note that if one child used reusable nappies over 2.5 years it would be comparable to driving a car 1,223 miles, versus the disposable option which equates to driving 1,622 miles. At scale, says The Nappy Alliance, this would equate to saving 700 million car miles of CO2 (or 3,000 car journeys to the moon) if every child in the UK was put in reusables.
Guy Schanschieff, chair of The Nappy Alliance and founder of baby care brand Bambino Mio, applauds Defra for commissioning the report. “[It] shows, as we’ve always known, that reusable nappies are better for the environment than single-use. Now that the Government knows this too, what are they waiting for? It’s time for a national strategy on nappy waste and for policies to be put into place to support reusable nappies to create a better world for future generations.
Now that the Government knows this too, what are they waiting for?
“For too long, the damaging effects of single-use nappies have been overlooked, despite them being a significant contributor to plastic waste in the UK and globally. Recognizing this, other countries are taking legislative steps to address their impact. The UK, often considered a leader in the global fight against plastic pollution, seriously risks falling behind its international counterparts if it doesn’t choose to act urgently on single-use nappies to support carbon reduction targets.”
The Nappy Alliance calls the report ‘extremely positive’ for the reusable nappy sector and ‘a beacon of hope for the planet’.
Dr Charlotte Lloyd, lecturer and research fellow in environmental chemistry, adds” It is great to see this updated LCA. Hopefully it will give parents the up-to-date information that has been lacking to help them make an informed choice about nappies for their children. Single-use nappies can be a source of nutrient, chemical and plastic pollution int eh environment and with every child using around 7,000 nappies in their lifetime the switch to reusable products would dramatically reduce the impact.”