Cloth or Disposable Diapers? A Moot Point? The Best Choices

Since 95 percent of parents put their children in plastic diapers, it seems a bit of a moot point to analyze which choice is better or worse for the environment.

It is unlikely that people will revert to hand washing diapers, no matter what the answer. The convenience of disposables, combined with busy lives, is too good of a help to pass up, especially because it is hard to keep a child over the age of one dry in cloth diapers.

It is reassuring, in a way, to note that in fact, the answer to the question is a muddled and confusing draw, according to most experts. On the one hand cloth diapers take a lot of water and detergent to wash, plus cotton that is usually grown with pesticides. On the other, disposable diapers are very resource-intensive using trees, plastics, and they take up enormous amount of landfill space. Even the Sierra Club considers the answer to the diaper debate a wash.

What isnít a moot point, however, is which brand of disposable diaper you choose, for the health of your baby, and the health of the planet in which your baby will grow. If you choose disposable diapers, here is our recommendation:

Dioxin is a deadly byproduct poison that is created when the materials used to make diapers are whitened with chlorine. Direct links have been associated between dioxin exposure and cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders.

Tributyl tin (TBT) is biocide used in paper mills that is extremely toxic to wildlife, and according to The Green Guide Institute, in 2000, Greenpeace Germany found TBT in eight brands of disposable diapers that had been tested in Germany.

Seventh Generationís chlorine-free disposable diapers are made with materials that have not been bleached with chlorine, and therefore do not contribute to dioxin in the environment. They also are free of TBT, fragrance, and latex, a common sensitizer.

Link on this resource to locate Seventh Generation diapers near you.

By Annie B. Bond


.about a year ago

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.about a year ago

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Robert Goldring
Robert Goldring2 years ago

we've just had a child and i can safely say that disposable nappies are far easier to manage.

N. Jane Walker
N. Jane Walker3 years ago

Are there no diaper services in the USA? Here in Toronto there are at least three. They pick up the used and drop off new diapers once a week and it's way cheaper than disposable. The company I selected doesn't use chlorine bleach and has a fleet of hybrid vehicles. It's the best solution!

Noelle Holohan
Noelle Holohan4 years ago

I am so happy more and more people are starting to write about cloth diapers to create awareness! I, like many people, didn't really know that much about cloth diapers. As soon as I started doing more research on them, it opened a whole can of worms and led me to ask myself, "Why aren't more parents using cloth diapers?". I became passionate about the topic. It was scary to learn about all the harmful chemicals (dioxins, tributyltin, and sodium polyacrylate) that are not stated on the packages from well-known disposable diaper companies. Then, I learned that it will cost families over $3,000 per child in disposable diapers from birth to potty training. This may be more in other countries. Yes, the start-up cost for cloth diapers can be around $3-400 dollars, but families can use this collection for additional children, buy them second-hand, and even sell them second-hand when they are finished using them. There is a market for buying second-hand cloth diapers ... believe it or not! This is a lot less than the overall cost of using disposables where you are literally throwing your money away. Besides the health and cost benefits of cloth diapers, many parents choose cloth diapers over disposables just for the environmental impact alone. They don't like that disposables take over 500 years to decompose and dislike the amount of trash they are making. Lastly, modern cloth diapers really have changed. There are a variety of brands to fit your baby's absorbency needs and come in t

lis Gunn
lis Gunn5 years ago

Many impoverished societies cant't afford disposable diapers. Toilet training occurs more quickly as a matter of necessity but there is closer communication between mother (usually) and child as the child's needs are read accurately and quickly.

Cloth nappies last forever and can be used for other things long after the baby has outgrown them. Cotton is also a sustainable resource.

In two hundred years time, archeologists will dig up our landfills and find millions of bits of plastic.

May Howie
may Howie5 years ago

cloth,it makes sense to use the safest and best

Carole R.
Carole R.5 years ago

Good article.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado5 years ago

We used to have cloth diapers until the appearance of the disposable diapers. Time saver?

colleen p.
colleen p.5 years ago

there are people who train their baby to fuss when it eleminates and they hold them over a toilet. I guess people who strap their kid to them all the time do this?in other countries