Each year, 200,000 trees are cut and 3.4 billion gallons of oil are used in the production of disposable diapers. 92% of these end up in landfills, with each taking at least 500 years to decompose due to its absorbent gels and plastic components. With most babies using about 3,500 diapers per year, that amounts to 27.4 billion diapers being added to landfills annually.
This poses a threat of soil and groundwater contamination thanks to the improper disposal of raw sewage and synthetic materials used to make diapers - which, even worse - your child is being exposed to. These components include wood pulp, bleached paper, polyester non-woven fabric, adhesives, chlorine, tribunal tin, glyphosate (a harmful herbicide), polypropylene, and sodium polyacrylate - which has been connected to urinary tract infections and more. Traces of dioxin have also been found - a carcinogenic chemical recognized by the EPA as the most toxic cancer-linked chemical. These chemicals strip the baby's skin of good bacteria, harming its pH levels. Plus, the ultimate absorbency and leakage prevention prohibits air circulation, which increases risk of infections.
What to Look For
It’s no surprise that absorbency and convenience are a top priority in diapers for new parents, but what you really should be looking for are diapers that are organic, non-toxic, biodegradable, chemical-free, and made with renewable resources or certified sustainable materials. Avoid diapers made with fragrances, bleach, chlorine, tributyltin (TBT), phthalates, latex, and parabens, and check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Tips to Safer Diapers for more information.
Cloth diapers are cheaper, reusable up to 200 times, made of breathable material like cotton that is gentler on the skin, do not give off chemical smells, and aid in temperature regulation. Consistent higher temperatures of male genitals have been associated with reduced sperm count, so temp control matters. Cloth diapers even support earlier potty training, as they allow for a sensation of wetness - something disposable diapers try to minimize. Finally, cleaning cloth diapers also means waste ends up in the sewage system or a dedicated compost pile, not landfills.
One of the most popular styles of cloth diapers are the pocket diaper style, which consists of a shell (outer piece), pocket (inside the shell) and insert (tucks into, or is placed on top of, pocket). This type of cloth diaper is super easy to use and wash; just have a wet bag placed in a small trash can to place used diapers into, and throw them into the washing machine every two days or so. This, of course, requires a bit more effort than simply throwing away a disposable diaper, but the long term benefits and cost savings are noteworthy. Without a doubt, cloth diapers are a valid option for those desiring a more mindful diapering experience.
While the routine required of a cloth-diapering lifestyle can feel overwhelming at first, there are a variety of adjustments that can be made to make things simpler. The Lively Table blog has an amazing breakdown of how to master cloth diapering as a busy parent, written by Kaleigh McMordie. Some of our favorite takeaways include putting inserts on top of the shell pockets as opposed to inside of them so as to reduce laundry and help the shells last longer (brilliant), and the uber specific detergent recommendations that will save you future stress when mineral buildup on your diapers inevitably becomes an issue.
McMordie also notes in her blog post that cloth diapers don’t need to be an all or nothing commitment. Doing a hybrid of cloth diapers and compostable diapers, for example, is another fab way to do better by baby and the environment when it comes to elimination.
Dyper: A Better Disposable
If cloth diapers are not right for your family, our favorite, safer disposable option is Dyper! Their certified plant-based diapers are made with viscose from responsibly sourced bamboo fibers and Standard 100 certified by OEKO TEX, a leading Swiss safety certification body. They're unprinted, unscented, hypoallergenic, breathable, soft to the touch yet extremely durable and absorbent, and free of chlorine, latex, alcohol, lotions, TBT, and phthalates. With each delivery, Dyper also purchases carbon offsets on your behalf to help reforestation efforts.
What really sets Dyper apart is that their disposable diapers are fully compostable! You can return your used diapers for disposal through an optional REDYPER™ pick up service so they don’t end up in a landfill.
How the Dyper Process Works
Dyper is a subscription delivery service that serves families who choose to cloth diaper, practice elimination communication, use compostable diapers, and potty train. They essentially have every base covered, all while keeping the best interests of both families and Earth in mind. The service can be used for multiple children at a time, allowing you to manage a variety of diapering options and circumstances. Through the use of AI technology, Dyper is able to predict how many diapers you need and when, taking the stress and guesswork out of managing each subscription on your own. The best part? If the AI prediction is wrong, they’ll deliver replacement diapers to you in just a few hours.
For families who choose compostable diapers, the shipping process in regard to soiled diapers couldn’t be smoother. Dyper provides you with compostable trash bags to fill with Dyper-brand compostable diapers and wipes. The bags are then picked up from your front porch every two weeks. What happens next? According to Dyper’s website:
DIY Diaper Composting
This differs from what the composting process would look like if you were to DIY at home - an option you might choose if Dyper doesn’t have pickup services in your area, or if you’re concerned about the impact of the fossil fuels related to the transportation involved in the process. Composting human waste at home is a somewhat controversial topic, though it was a pretty regular occurrence up until synthetic fertilizers appeared on the scene in 1913. If done properly, the time-tested consensus is that it’s okay to process feces in a dedicated compost pile designed to reach the bacteria-killing temperature of 140 degrees or more (never going lower than 131 degrees), so long as it is tended to diligently and you wait a year prior to using it in your garden. This route makes more sense for families with a decent amount of space (and time) to do such a thing, as the feces-dedicated pile would have to be separate from any other compost pile that requires different temperature considerations.
That being said, composting diapers that only contain urine is a much less intensive process. The amount of diapers your baby uses could be too much for strictly at-home composting, and it isn’t recommended to do so if you’re relying on worms; they simply won’t be able to work with the volume. However, it’s totally possible (and admirable) to compost urine-soaked (compostable) diapers, and doing so will create a pretty kickass fertilizer at the end of it all.
If DIY composting is speaking to you, here are resources provided by the US Composting Council to help you get started. They may not speak directly to diapers or human waste, but they will inform you as to how composting is supported by your state. There are a variety of books on the topic of composting as well.
Modern parents are growing more and more thoughtful when it comes to their impact on the planet in relation to the amount of waste their families produce. It comes as no surprise that diapers are at the forefront of the conversation, and while the process of composting diapers is still evolving, the options available today are absolutely headed in the right direction. Whether you commit fully to cloth diapering, compostable diapering, or a combination of both, you should give yourself some love for making a conscious choice to do better for our environment. The care and keeping of children requires a commitment to taking care of the planet that they live on, for their future depends on the many choices we make in the present.
The content provided in this article(s) is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Neither Carson Meyer nor C & The Moon LLC are liable for claims arising from the use of or reliance on information contained in this article.