Environmental Impact of Disposable Diapers

Environmental Impact of Disposable Diapers

When trying to find the intersection between giving our babies what’s best and taking care of the earth, cloth diapers are a natural solution. If you’re not convinced that it is worth it, we’ve compiled some information to help you better understand what disposables are doing to our environment.

Disposing of Disposables

To begin our conversation on environmental impact, let’s start with a few facts about disposable diapers as reported by CBC News:

  • Disposable diapers account for 96 percent of diaper sales in North America.
  • 4 million disposable diapers are sent to Canadian landfills every day.
  • It takes between 250 and 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose.

Brand new unused disposable diaper.

There is some disagreement on the decomposition time, however, all studies agree on this point: all disposable diapers make their way to a landfill and stay there. If your parents used disposable diapers, your old diapers are still laying around underground somewhere and will probably still be there for some future generation to uncover during an archeological dig. Lovely.

Soiled disposable diaper 3 yrs landfill, still wholly intact.

Beyond the Landfill

There’s more to the story than just ancient diapers in a landfill. Consider that the contents of a cloth diaper are treated as sewage (as it should be!) while disposable diapers send this nasty waste to the landfill. Think about that for a second: we flush our own poop to have it professionally treated before being unleashed on the environment but have no problem sending our baby’s poop enclosed in a diaper to a trash heap.

Bear with us as we ask you to think about poop for one more minute. Most landfills are engineered to keep waste from leaching out into the environment or into the water system. However, they are not fail-proof and there’s no accounting for the potential of spreading disease by small animals, insects, and other critters who have access to what’s on top.

That archeological dig is getting grosser by the minute.

No Chemical Romance

Disposable diapers are made from an assortment of natural products and a shocking cocktail of chemicals. First, there is TBT, a substance that does not degrade in the environment and is listed by the US EPA as extremely harmful to aquatic life. Then there is the byproduct of the bleaching process called dioxins which are recognized by the World Health Organization and the US EPA as being one of the most toxic. Let’s not forget about all the dyes used to make disposables pretty and the fragrances used to make them less stinky. It’s an awful lot to let loose on the earth just for a contraption to catch poop.

Is it All Safe?

Most experts will say that all those plastics, poop, and chemicals are safe, especially in the quantity found in a single diaper. The minuscule amount of TBT found in one diaper won’t kill a fish–but what about the accumulation from billions upon billions of diapers that will sit for hundreds of years? What about all that antique poop? 

We say: skip the whole mess entirely by choosing cotton diapers that are all natural, and can be washed and reused over and over again. If you don’t like the idea of dealing with poop at home, try a cloth diapering service that will pick up your dirty diapers and deliver fresh ones. It’s as simple as disposables without the harm to the environment.

Want to learn more? Contact Comfy Cotton Diaper Service. We do it all–including saving you from late-night runs to the store for more diapers!