Did you know that estimates show it could take 500 years for a disposal nappy to degrade

Estimates show it could take more than 500 years for a disposal nappy to degrade, if ever.

Estimates show it could take more than 500 years for a disposal nappy to degrade, if ever. - Credit: MAMMA BAMBOO

Did you know that disposable nappies contribute to more than 1,400 tonnes of waste for landfill each year and if you are struggling to imagine what that means, it's enough to fill 130 refuse vehicles.

Disposable nappies also cause contamination when incorrectly disposed of in the recycling bins, accounting for an average of 10 tonnes of waste (a full refuse vehicle) each month, according to figures from Huntingdonshire District Council. 

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) charity has produced estimates that show by the time a toddler has been potty trained, it will have used between 4,000 and 6,000 disposable nappies. That amount of disposal nappies will also use the following resources to produce: 1,500lts of crude oil; 350kg of wool; 50kg of petroleum; 25kg chlorine and 11.25 trees.

Maybe most shocking of all the statistics, is the estimated length of time it takes for a nappy to degrade, which is literally hundreds of years or as Heidi Field who is the waste minimisation officer for HDC, says, "never".

"Nappies don’t really degrade. There have been estimates that they will degrade in landfill in 500 years, but obviously with none of us having been around for anywhere near that long, there is simply no way of knowing," explained Heidi.

So what is the environmental cost of single-use nappies?

An estimated three billion nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, accounting for 2-3 per cent of all household waste, according to recycling charity WRAP.

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The vast majority of nappies are not recyclable and must be thrown away with general waste. This means they will probably end up in landfill or being burnt.

Energy can be harnessed from burning waste and used for fuel but this also produces greenhouse gases - as do landfills.

Also, there is the issue of contamination as the contents of used nappies are often thrown in the bin with the nappy rather than being emptied into the sewage system and this then leads to additional methane being released when placed in landfill.

HDC has previously launched a Reusable Nappy Incentive and worked with suppliers to secure discounts.

Councillor Marge Buettell, whose executive responsibilities include Operations and the Environment has said: Reusable nappies not only help the environment by reducing the waste that is sent to landfill but will also save money for new parents in the long run.”

There is a petition on Change.Org to ban councils from sending disposal nappies to landfill. You can sign at: www.change.org/p/extend-the-environment-bill-to-ban-all-nappy-and-wipe-waste-from-landfill.