Eco-Friendly Diapers: Cloth vs. Disposables
New parents have a lot of difficult choices to make. Bottle or breast, pacifier or no pacifier, to feed on a schedule or on demand, and, of course, another major decision, cloth or disposable.
Digging more deeply into the diaper controversy, many would think that cloth diapers, that are manufactured from more natural sources and produce less waste, are the environmentally friendly option. However, when you weigh this against the fact that cloth diapers use valuable natural resources when they are washed, one finds that there is more research that needs to be done before coming to a decision.
But no worries, this article will take a look at the cloth vs. disposable debate to help you come up with your best option.
The argument against disposables on an environmental level includes chemical emissions, landfill contributions, energy consumption and water usage and waste. Let's look at what goes into the manufacturing of these diapers that might lead to this kind of impact.
Wood Pulp: Wood pulp is a major component in disposable diapers, giving them their absorbent quality. The manufacturing of wood pulp uses a lot of water and creates additional waste that needs to be taken care of on site. Other synthetic materials that go into making disposable diapers include sodium polyacrylate, polypropylene and sometimes fragrances.
Bleach: Some diapers are bleached with chlorine to make them appear extra white. This can lead to the production of dioxins which are toxic and potentially cancer-causing pollutants.
Domestic and Imported Materials: While many diapers are manufactured in the U.S. or Mexico, others require raw materials that must be transported over long distances. The transportation uses resources that can add to the environmental impact.
When looking at the manufacturing of both diapers, cloth clearly has fewer environmental repercussions as compared to their disposable counterparts. Made of plant-based materials, they are by far the eco-friendly option in this arena. And when you consider the fact that they are easily recyclable, cloth comes out as a clear winner.
However, the real issue is brought into question when we consider the water usage in the washing of the diapers. Cloth diapers need to be washed 1-3 times a week, depending on how many you use. A high-efficiency washer will use 15-30 gallons of water while older machines will use 30-50. To minimize this amount, you can throw in diapers with other clothing after a quick pre-rinse.
You can also save on energy costs of a dryer by line drying your diapers.
Another thing to take into consideration is the number of diapers used. While an average family uses 7,300 disposable diapers on their children over a 2.5 year period, this same amount of diapers could be used on 243 children over the same time period.
After examining this evidence, some might side with the cloth diapers as an environmentally friendly option, but the truth is, there are still health and financial impacts with both choices. Your decision may come down to a matter of personal preference and there is no clear right or wrong option. Hopefully, this article helped to lay out some important facts so you can make a choice based on what is important to you.
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