And with an estimated three billion nappies thrown away every year in the UK, there’s a real need for biodegradable nappies. The problem is, while there are nappies available labeled as environmentally friendly, are they really biodegradable?
What does biodegradable mean?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, biodegradable means products or substance which are ‘able to decay naturally and in a way that is not harmful.’
Exactly what biodegradable nappies are made of actually differs from brand to brand. Typically, most contain more environmentally friendly materials with fewer or no chemicals than you would find in a traditional disposable nappy. When deciding which brand to go with, check the product information as no brand of eco-nappies are the same. Here are a few examples:
Mama Bamboo - Each nappy is made from mostly naturally derived fabrics: 100% organic non-woven bamboo fibre, 100% compostable blown film liners and 100% Chlorine-free sustainably sourced compostable fluff pulp core.
Mum & You - made using chlorine-free wood pulp from certified sustainable forestry and free from dyes, lotions and latex.
Eco by Naty - The core of the nappy is made from 100% FSC certified wood pulp while the other layers are made of natural biodegradable materials.
Kit & Kin – The core contains chlorine-free fluff pulp harvested from sustainably managed forests and the front panels, tapes, anti-leak barriers and packaging are all made from an oxo-biodegradable material.
Free of harmful chemicals and all known allergens, Bamboo Nature Eco Nappies have a unique three-layer design and super-absorbent core. Your baby's sensitive skin will stay dry and comfortable thanks to the fully breathable backsheet. The flexible waistband and latex-free leg cuffs help the nappy to stay in place while maximizing movement so your child can move freely.
With a biodegradable core and no added chemicals, Mum & You nappies are super soft and comfortable for your little one to wear. The absorbency layer is made using recycled wood pulp from certified sustainable forestry and they give up to 12 hours protection against leaks as well as being hypoallergenic & dermatologically tested.
Naty nappies are made from mostly plant-based materials and are the only nappy on the market to receive 'OK biobased' certification – confirmation that they contain primarily bio-based ingredients. The core of the nappy is made from 100% FSC certified wood pulp while the other layers are made of natural biodegradable materials making the nappy breathable and comfortable against your baby's delicate skin.
Co-founded by Spice Girl Emma Bunton, Kit & Kin have proved hugely popular amongst mums. Their nappies are made using eco and plant-based materials with a soft waistband and stretchy elastic panels which naturally adjust to your baby's body shape for maximum freedom of movement. For every pack sold, Kit & Kin help fund the purchase and protection of threatened tropical rainforest through the World Land Trust's Buy an Acre programme.
Are biodegradable nappies completely biodegradable?
Unfortunately, there are currently no nappies that are 100 per cent biodegradable. While the nappies included in this guide are made from environmentally friendly materials, they are not completely biodegradable.
Does ‘eco-friendly’ mean biodegradable?
Nappies dubbed eco- friendly simply refer to nappies that are environmentally friendly in some way, whether that’s by using less chemicals, plastic-free packaging or consisting of some biodegradable materials. This is why it is important to do your homework rather than going by product packaging.
What happens to biodegradable nappies in a landfill?
Very little, is the answer sadly. Nappies with biodegradable elements need to be composted in a very particular way and this isn’t going to happen at a landfill as landfill sites are specifically designed to keep any decomposition as low as possible because of the gases and liquid which are released when decomposition occurs. "As landfills are ‘capped’, the environment within them is of an anaerobic nature (i.e. there is no oxygen)," says Adam Herriot, Resource Management Specialist from WRAP. "This means that biodegradable materials either do not breakdown or they take an extended period to do so. It is estimated that nappies would take approximately 300-500 years to breakdown in a landfill."
What should I do with soiled nappies that contain biodegradable materials?
Ironically, despite having biodegradable elements, this just isn't enough to be able to dispose of eco-friendly nappies in a way that is beneficial to the environment. "We always recommend following the advice of your local authority to ensure that these go through to the most appropriate disposal route available to you," says Adam. "This unfortunately often means placing into the residual waste bin."
Should I use cloth nappies?
Another eco-friendly option you’ve probably heard about are cloth nappies. WRAP say that by the time they are potty trained, a baby could have used 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies compared to 20 to 30 reusable nappies. "Cloth nappies, or ‘real nappies’, can be used over and over again, saving tonnes of waste from going to landfill," says Adam. "Realnappiesforlondon.org.uk is a great source of information on additional benefits, including cost savings."
Having worked for Mother&Baby magazine for four years where she wrote news and product pages, features and interviewed celebrities such as Paloma Faith, Fearne Cotton and Alex Jones, Emily now works as Digital Writer for Mother&Baby online.
A fondness for travel, chocolate and her sausage dog Luna, in her spare time. Emily also runs the lifestyle blog, Musings & More.
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