3 in 10 people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 6 in 10 people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities. With surface water availability decreasing due to human activities and climate change, our reliance on groundwater is growing. Almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater, supporting drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farming industry, and ecosystems. With a growing global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, the world will require a 60 percent increase in food production which is dependent on the world’s freshwater supply.
So, what do cloth diapers have to do with groundwater? To answer that question, we review the environmental impact of disposable diapers and find out how taking small steps with cloth diapers can help to mitigate the global water crisis.
“We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” - Anne-Marie Bonneau
The environmental impact of disposable diapers
Every year, 20 billion disposable diapers go into landfills in the U.S. alone¹. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), disposable diapers take up to 405 to degrade which means, every disposable diaper ever created still exists today.
Disposable diapers are created with wood pulp, polypropylene plastic, made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and the absorbent layer is made with sodium polyacrylate gel, also manufactured from petroleum. Not only do plastics pose adverse health effects including hormone disruption, but plastics can only break down into microplastics, leaching toxins into landfills and our waterways. ‘Biodegradable’ disposable diapers have become popular in recent years. While they may be compostable, they cannot naturally decompose under landfill conditions.
Landfills are finite, challenging our land resources. In order to move toward a more sustainable future, we need to reduce our waste and transition to circular solutions wherever possible.
¹U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
How cloth diapers can reduce groundwater pollution
The convenience of disposables means throwing everything straight in the trash and off it goes to landfill. Out of sight, out of mind. But – did you know – disposing of human feces in a landfill can contaminate groundwater with pathogenic viruses e.g. Norovirus. With cloth diapers, we can reduce contamination of our waterways by emptying all solids down the toilet which can then go through sewage treatment facilities.Cloth diapers are sometimes produced using cotton that is treated with chemicals and pesticides contributing to groundwater pollution and impacting the ecosystem of countries where cotton is a primary export. At Just Peachy, our Reusable Cloth Diaper Inserts are made using Bamboo Cotton and Hemp Cotton. Bamboo is a natural, renewable resource that grows rapidly, while hemp requires less land and less water to grow compared to cotton. Traditional disposable diapers in contrast rely solely on petrochemical materials and non-renewable resources. The outer shell of Just Peachy Cloth Diapers is made using a water-resistant material, polyurethane laminate (PUL). The lamination heat-bonding process is less polluting than chemically bonded materials. The outer shell is digitally printed to minimize the use of water and dyes commonly required to produce colourful and appealing cloth diapers.
Mitigating the global water & climate crisis with cloth diapers
The global climate and water crisis can feel like an overwhelming weight on our shoulders as consumers. As Anne-Marie Bonneau has frequently been quoted:
“We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
We believe in taking small steps toward a sustainable future. Switching to just 1 cloth diaper a day can still save up to 1,000 disposable diapers from going to landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and leachate from contaminating groundwater.
How you care for your cloth diapers can dramatically reduce your environmental impact
Washing cloth diapers in a full load, line drying, and reusing cloth diapers on a second child can lower your global warming impact by 40 percent. This is the equivalent of 200kg of carbon dioxide over two and a half years, equal to driving a car approximately 1,000 km.
Getting started with Cloth Diapering is not as scary and daunting as one might expect.
Learn more with Just Peachy’s Cloth Diapering Quick Start Guide →
We’re empowering parents to do better for the planet and to choose better for their kids. If you found this article interesting, share this article with a friend or share the infographic below on social media.
Download Infographic: Disposable Diapers vs. Cloth Diapers
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