Disposable Diapers: Environmental Time Bomb

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Last night instead of watching my usual HGTV or TLC, I got caught up in a show on The History Channel called The Works. The title of the show was “Garbage”. “Garbage” centered around a New York City landfill and described how landfills are made, how they are filled, and how they are used after they are capped off.

I had no idea landfills were so fascinating and disgusting at the same time.

It was most depressing when they showed the tons of plastics that are disposed of daily. Just in terms of plastic wrap, we use enough every year to shrink-wrap the state of Texas. Plastics also make up the majority of disposable diapers.

This photo from The Natural Baby Co. explains it perfectly.

This photo explains it all. Courtesy of http://www.thenaturalbabyco.com/diaper-experts/are-diapers-biodegradable/

This photo explains it all. Courtesy of http://www.thenaturalbabyco.com/diaper-experts/are-diapers-biodegradable/

To manufacture the amount of disposable diapers to cover 90 percent of the babies born in the U.S. It takes upwards of 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp, or a quarter-million trees! For a more tangible statistic, it takes one whole cup of crude oil to manufacture the plastics used in one single-use diaper.

According to a Mothering Magazine article(Issue 88, May/June 1998), 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown into landfills every year and estimates show it could take around 500 years for decomposition to occur. The Works host explained the reason for this estimate being plastics have only been around for about 100 years. They really have no idea if it will take 500 or 1500 years.

Once in a landfill, plastic will never fully decompose. Over time it goes through a process of photo degradation and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. These substances cannot be converted by any known organisms and as such remain as plastic in landfills, rivers and oceans.

Seeing as we (cloth diapering families) are just a mere 10% of the U.S. population, we have a big responsibility. We may not be making a huge dent in the landfills by using cloth diapers; but the more exposure cloth diapers get and the more we spread the word locally the bigger the impact we can have.

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About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at https://www.facebook.com/beautifullyblessedlashes.

View all posts by Autumn Beck

11 Responses to “Disposable Diapers: Environmental Time Bomb”

  1. Charndra at Part Time Diaper Free Says:

    “M” – excellent points. Even IF all those things were possible – I’ve seen people wrap their disposable and the wipes in no less than 4 plastic bags! OMG! I was stunned, especially as it was still a tiny baby!

    Even a compostable diaper can’t degrade in a plastic bag!


  2. Matt Schulte Says:

    We love cloth.
    Easy, simply, cheap… we use the Bum Genious Diapers.


  3. Alysha Says:

    Ok I have written and deleted this comment several times. I do not want this to sound like a sales pitch because its not! But here it is anyway. I have come up with a product that works wonders on yest and rash issues and I would be happy to give it to anyone who is interested at my cost. I am sorry I cant afford to give it out. You have no idea how badly I wish I could as mothers and babies are my true passion! I wish I had a magic wand to bestow health on the world! I am bursting at the seams! But I am forced to come down to reality :(

    My little one has had mild yeast rash since birth. At 1 I switched to cloth and his skin went bonkers. In a desperate attempt to make cloth work I tried every product claiming to work for rashes and yeast I could get my hands on. Prescriptions, organic you name it. Nothing helped. After 6 weeks his skin was literally coming off in small chunks and there were many open wounds landing us in the hospital. Out of desperation and determination to beat it I began to do major research on all ingredients organic and their varying benefits. After about 3 weeks and a couple hundred hours I came up with my diaper cream. I slapped it on not sure what to expect. After 24 hours it began to heal much to my surprise and excitment! After 72 hours (God as my witness) There were mere blemishes left!

    Every day there are thousands of products pushed to us that are full of health hazard chemicals. Most of us accept it as main stream putting our trust in companies that are only out to get our money. What happens after that is no concern of theirs. I am tired of our toys being recalled, I am tired of looking at every ingredient list of common household products and seeing chemicals that are known to cause asthma,cancer, skin conditions, liver damage. The list goes on ladies. I am saying no! I am in control from this point forward. No longer will I allow these companies to sneak in their junk to my family. I am doing something about it! I have been developing products for the past 7 months that address issues that I face with my own children. I am working on offering them to you all. Autumn I have not forgotten you. I will be shipping Friday!


  4. Autumn Beck Says:

    LesLee, when you using Thirsties Pocket AIOs I always turned them inside out to dry. That was the best way for me to insure they were completely dry without taking forever.


  5. Heidi Says:

    Since starting to cd, I’ve converted one friend and have another one who strongly considering using my outgrown diapers when her baby is born. Each of those people are influencing someone else to try. We are making a bigger imapact than we think = )


  6. M@ Says:

    Disposable diapers WILL NOT EVER DEGRADE in a standard US Landfill. ‘Sposie diaper manufactuers will tell you that the plastic portions of their diaper will photodegrade, and the wood pulp portions will biodegrade.

    What they won’t tell you is the following, unless you ferret it out of them:

    Photo degradation in this case refers to ‘photon’, ie, light. Light is most notably -absent- in a landfill.

    Biodegradation requires air and water, also absent.

    Therefore, disposable diapers WILL NOT EVER decompose.

    Great site on this, specifically covering the ‘green’ disposable diapers: http://blog.bolandbol.com/product-reviews/green-diapers-review/


  7. LesLee Says:

    Hey, my son is having the same issue but I can’t do ‘sposies since I’ve blown about $600 on my stash (oops!) My son now is dealing with a yeast infection and it got me thinking that maybe my diapers aren’t really dry, they feel dry but the darn things were made to be absorbant…they are good at hiding away the wetness. Do you think I could be right? How long do you think it takes to get these diapers dry (line drying)? Specifically Thirsties AIO pockets v1, Thanks so much!


  8. Autumn Beck Says:

    Hey, Leah. This is a preview for a post to come lol…Paisley has suffered from constant rashes and eczema like patches all her life. I have been using the Laundry Ball I wrote about weeks ago and she has NO, let me repeat that, NO rashes :) It’s nice to see normal skin on my baby’s parts.


  9. Leah Says:

    I love cloth diapers, but my infant girl breaks out in a terrible rash when I put her in them.
    My 3 year old has hardly any problem on his bottom.
    Am I doing something wrong? I use homemade laundry detergent, and never use bleach. It seems like the more I do to keep her dry in the cloth diapers, the worse the rash gets.
    I’ve had to put her in disposables to keep her tush healthy.


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