Re-usable cloth nappies can save 40% carbon emissions over disposables new research by the Environment Agency reveals.
But carbon emissions will only be saved if cloth nappies are washed in a fully loaded washing machine or line dried outside whenever possible.
An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies examines the environmental impacts of two systems. The report analyses the environmental impacts of a child using disposable nappies for the first two and half years of its life versus cloth nappies for the same period.
The aim of the study was to update a previous report on the environmental impacts of reusable nappy types compared with disposable nappies, using a 2006 data reference point.
It says that the average disposable nappy would result in a global warming impact of approximately 550kg of carbon dioxide equivalents used over the two and half years a child is typically in nappies. In comparison, using re-useable nappies that had been eco-washed would result in a global warming impact of some 200kg of carbon dioxide equivalents over two and a half years.
The 2005 report showed that there was little difference between the environmental impacts of re-usable nappies over disposable nappies.
Environmental charity Womens Environmental Network welcomed the report. Spokeswoman Biba Hartigan told MRW: There have been instances where local authority officers wanted to promote Real Nappies [re-usable nappies] but have not been able to because of decisions by councillors not to allocate funding towards it because of the findings in the previous report. Now this information has clearly stated that cloth nappies hold no environmental burden authorities can promote them and divert biodegradable waste from going to landfill.
Hartigan said that the 2005 report was flawed because only a small sample of reusable nappy users were surveyed and that it sparked off confusion over which nappies were more eco-friendly. She said that now all questions had been answered and the debate had been put to rest.
Recent figures from the Real Nappy Campaign highlight that disposable nappies make up about 2.6% of the average household rubbish in a year.