Disposable nappies are widely regarded as one of the biggest environmental time bombs the world has to face. Every day millions of nappies are sent to landfill sites all over the world.
The plastic content and the nappy sack they are wrapped up in will take hundreds of years to degrade, and then there are the contamination risks from the untreated faeces. The solution is to use washable nappies, but most of us still feel that disposables are the easier route.
Alex Freeman decided to use washable nappies for her third child, Elijah having used disposables for her first two.
eP: Why did you decide to try washable nappies?
AF: 'I used disposables for the first two children partly because while pregnant and shortly after the birth I was bombarded with free samples, money-off vouchers, advertising, a video about nappies etc from the disposable nappy industry. I guess I followed their "advice". One is very vulnerable at these times and I think the images of happy babies in their disposable nappies left a strong impression.'
'Even then I had a nagging feeling that this wasn't very environmentally friendly, so I looked at what alternatives there may be. They were not very appealing in 1997, consisting of huge terry nappies, safety pins and plastic pants. I went "yuk" and bought a pack of Pampers.'
'However, Elijah was born in "Real Nappy Week" 2002, so I got a free sample from Cotton Bottoms, a nappy, wrap and some liners, and I discovered that a lot had changed in the previous four and a half years - these were appealing, came in all sorts of pretty designs, were not bulky, were easy to use, and there was a nappy washing service, so you could try them out without all the outlay.'
eP: Did you give the nappy washing service a go?
AF: 'Yes and it was very good, very efficient, but much more expensive than washing them yourself. It certainly is a good way of trying out washable nappies if you're not sure you want to take the plunge. After a short while I decided to buy and wash my own nappies. Unfortunately the day after I finished using the nappy washing service my washing machine broke down and I had to buy a new one quickly!'
eP: What sort of initial outlay did you have to make?
AF: 'About £100 I think, but all those items have had to be replaced as Elijah has grown out of them. They are definitely cheaper in the long run, even if you only use them for one child - even more so if you use them for more than one. My county council also runs an incentive scheme of £30 for using them.'
eP: Are there any disadvantages?
AF: 'They are more work, although not as much as you would think once you get into a routine. I bought a tumble drier to get them dry, and I think it would be quite difficult in winter without one.'
'Overall I would definitely recommend using washable nappies.'
About the Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the Editor of eParenting.