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

5 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. 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.


  3. 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!


  4. 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.


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