Saturday, February 10, 2007

What's So Bad About Disposables?

My sister, Stephanie, asked "What's so bad about disposables anyway?" Great question.

  1. Disposables cost more over time than reusing the same thing again and again. How much do you spend each week on nappies, sanitary products, kitchen towels, cleaning wipes, baby wipes etc
  2. Disposables add more to landfill than reusing things. Disposable nappies, for example, make up 4% of the UK's household rubbish, and 50% of all the rubbish in a one-baby family
  3. Disposables require more resources to make, simply because we use more. For example, a typical woman uses 10-15,000 sanitary towels , tampons and applicators in her lifetime, but they could all be replaced by a few dozen washable pads
  4. Some disposable products contain non-biodegradable substances (such as plastic) which aren't in their reusable alternative. For example the plastic layer in sanitary towels and pantyliners, or the absorbent gel in disposable nappies
  5. Reusable products are a great opportunity for recycling. Old clothes can become dusters, old bedding can become hankies, face flannels that are too threadbare or stained for use can become cleaning cloths and so on
  6. Disposables create more packaging waste - imagine the plastic wrapping you throw away each week from your kitchen roll, nappies, sanitary products, baby wipes etc. Especially things like baby wipes and cleaning wipes that come in plastic dispensing boxes
  7. Disposable products such as tissues, nappies, sanitary products etc. are bleached using a process which releases dioxins, one of the most toxic substances known
These are the major reasons, but I can think of many other benefits of using reusable products:
  • Fewer toilet blockages. Say no more
  • Kitchen towels are advertised as being "strong", well they're not nearly as strong as a woven cloth
  • Baby wipes and cleaning wipes contain cleaning chemicals which you have no control over. You can use a washable cloth with plain water or any other cleaning liquid you choose
  • No need to dash out to the shops when you realise you have run out of nappies or sanitary products (although you do need instead a laundry schedule that ensures you don't run out of clean ones)

8 comments:

lilymarlene said...

I couldn't agree more.....with all that you say. If only those disposables had been around when I needed them.....!
I never used disposable nappies on our son....except when on holiday. And the only time he had a sore bottom was.....when we were on holiday!

Karen Lizzie said...

Everything you say makes sense. But I have always wondered, what are the figures on damage caused to the environment by all the extra laundry produced by re-usables. Nappies need hotter washes to kill bacteria, as do cleaning cloths dishcloths etc. So if you add up, cost of cleaning water to use for washing, producing electricity to run the washer, the energy required to build more washing machines when they wear out due to the added wear and tear, how well does the arument work then.

I must admit to sitting on the fence, the reusables seem like a good idea, but how good, also bearing in mind that most people who do reusable nappies use tumble criers to dry them!

Anonymous said...

Karen, the same question was asked earlier & Mel made a good point that so long as you wash on a low temp (eg 30C rather than a boil wash) and use an environmentally safe soap powder/liquid, and line dry or dry on an airing in the kitchen, like I now do, the effects of washing are lessened a lot.

Melanie Rimmer said...

I think bacteria are over-emphasised (mainly in a deliberate and cynical ploy by advertisers to scare us into buying products we don't need).

Bacteria are everywhere. Always are. Always have been. Humans are equipped with sophisticated defences against them.

In particular, bacteria on my clothes, in my toilet and on surfaces in my home are of no concern to me whatsoever. Skin is bacteria-proof.

I'm more concerned about bacteria in my water supply and my food. So I'm glad we have excellent clean water provision in this country (in fact we take it too much for granted, and it's shocking that we wash our cars, flush our toilets and water our gardens with water that's clean enough to drink - if I did these things with Perrier you'd think I was mad). And I practice sensible food hygiene.

Washing at 60degrees doesn't kill bacteria, so you might as well wash at 30degrees and save a lot of energy. Boiling does kill them, but so does drying out completely (for the bacteria you need to worry about in your home, anyway). So your best hygienic nappy and cloth-cleaning method is to wash those things at 30 and then dry completely. I'd advise you to dry on a line. If you can dry outdoors, the UV in sunlight will also kill bacteria and will bleach out stains too.

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