Even though I don’t have a baby, diapers are on my radar. This is due in part to a lack of litter education in rural (which is most of) Costa Rica (where I lived for the better part of a decade), and due in part to my sister being the proud and fabulous mother of a 13-month old.
Whether or not I will ever have to make the decision of cloth versus disposable diapers for my own child, I do, as a citizen of our lovely planet, feel like disposable diapers are a topic that needs our attention, parents and non-parents alike. Here are some disturbing facts for you:
1. Americans throw away 570 diapers per second. That’s 49 million diapers per day – Cleanair.org
2. An average child will use between 8,000 -10,000 disposable diapers ($2,000 worth) – Clean Air Council
3. The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth (www.realdiapersassociation.org) Read more stats on their website.
4. The US uses 27.4 billion disposable diapers each year – Wikipedia.org
5. Diapers are the third largest consumer item in landfills and make up about four percent of all solid waste. – Inhabitots.com
There are lots of articles out there on the pros and cons of disposable versus reusable diapers, but it seems to me that mostly the argument boils down to one thing: if you are willing to take the extra time and effort to use cloth. Every article out there goes through lists and graphs and tables of which are better, which are worse, but all of them come out with the end statement that your baby is better off with cloth and without plastic, chemicals, bleach, dyes and fragrance sitting next to their very delicate skin (not to be forgotten as the body’s largest organ).
My sister has come up with a system that I bet is very similar to many busy families trying to juggle more than one child, more than one job, a house, family and their own lives: she uses multiple options, leaning towards naked babies and reusables most of the time, but disposables when they are truly time-saving or overwhelmingly easier.
If everyone were to treat all disposable products with the idea that they are ocassional-use items, a big portion of our energy, waste and landfill issues would start to look a lot less overwhelming. Just like the diaper question.