Zero Waste Fail- My Guilty Secret

On the whole, I feel fairly virtuous when it comes to my environmental footprint and zero-waste habits. But there is one habit I cannot let go of. My guilty secret is that every Wednesday night when I put out our rubbish bin, 90% of the contents are made up of DISPOSABLE NAPPIES.

I know they are terrible for the environment. I know they are made of plastic, manufactured in pollution-emitting, resource-consuming factories, I know that no one even knows how long they take to break down in landfill because it’s longer than we’ve been making them- 100 years? 500 years? 1000 years? Does it matter once we’re talking about those lengths of time?

When I was pregnant with Master L, who is now approaching 4 ½, I was attracted to cloth nappies. Initially it was the cost savings that motivated me. Bamboozled by the different systems available, I bought several different styles (not a complete set of each- cloth nappies are really expensive!) to try out before I committed to one particular style. None were perfect. Despite any claims to the contrary, they leak. Not as much if you change them often enough, but no one tells you that “often enough” is roughly every hour. Not practical, even with just one baby. They are also bulky (even the cool, all in one styles) so they stretch your baby’s onsies and you need extra big pants to fit over them. Not such a big deal, but annoying when you want to use the clothes again for the next child.

I also hadn’t bargained on just how cheap disposable nappies are (ie I didn’t do my sums). They are super cheap. And the cheaper brands work just as well as the expensive ones (generally).

But I persevered. The thought of those heavy balls of pooey wet plasticky evil going to landfill was enough to keep me using cloth nappies. Mostly. As was the theoretical advantage that cloth nappies supposedly result in earlier toilet training (my children have clearly not read that research). Master L outgrew his cloth nappies, however, well before he was ready for toilet training. His howl of agony the first time I pinched the skin of his fat thigh between the poppers on the nappy finally convinced me to put them away, guilt-free, for the next baby.

Cue Miss L. Her arrival (the hardest transition I think of all the kids) meant I had 2 kids in nappies and I didn’t even bother trying the cloth nappies with her.

However, since my newfound zero waste crusade, I have re-tried my cloth nappies with Baby L. And I have nicely demonstrated all the above points to still be true. I have toyed with selling them or giving them away, then last week I thought I’d just have one more go. Two cloth nappies and two hours later, I removed Baby L’s urine-soaked clothes and sodden nappy to find his bottom red, raw and angry. He cried when I put him in the bath that night and every time I cleaned his bottom for the next 2 days. What’s more, I used more disposable nappies in the following days trying to improve his nappy rash with frequent changing than I had saved in the two hours I had the cloth nappies on him.

My cloth nappies are now sitting in a box in the dining room, waiting to be photographed and advertised on Trade Me. Let’s just hope no prospective buyers are reading this post!!

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