- $0.42/load, using Arm & Hammer Fabric Care. This assumes you use 1/2 the recommended amount of detergent typically used in a standard load
- National average per wash cycle is $0.19 X 3 complete wash cycles = Total wash expense = $0.57
- National average per dry cycle is $0.40
- Wash expense = $0.57 + drying expense= $0.40 = Total Electricity Expense of $0.97
- Water cost is $0.20 for 140 gallons = Total Water Expense of $0.20
Loads per Diapering Period
- Wash every 3 days = 2 loads per week
- 2 loads per week X 130 weeks (diapering period) = 260 Loads per Diapering Period
Total Laundering Expense
- Total Detergent & Additive Expense of $0.42 + Total Electricity Expense of $0.97 + Total Water Expense of $0.20 X 260 Loads per Diapering Period = Total Laundering Expense of $413.40 People often argue that the extra laundry costs and the residue that washes into the sewers negates any benefits to the environment that cloth diapers present. This opinion is a misinformed one, as only slightly more water will be used with cloth, due to the water used in the manufacturing of disposables. Also, the detergents used to clean cloth are much easier on the environment than the bleaches and other chemicals that are byproducts of the disposable industrial processes.
Here's a bit of history. Up until 1960's, cloth diapers were almost exclusively used to cover our ancestors tushes. Proctor and Gamble introduced single-use or disposable diapers trademarked Pampers in 1961, and the domination of the market began.
By 1991, about 90% of babies in the US used single-use disposable diapers, and the incidence of diaper rash increased dramatically from 7% in 1955 to 78% in 1991
. This drastic rise is shown to be directly attributable to the prevalent use of disposables. A recent journalistic investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
(CBC) highlights some of additional potential dangers of disposables, such as severe diaper rash likened to chemical burns, that the large corporations don't want you to know. The Journal of Pediatrics has reported that 54% of one-month old babies using disposables had rashes, with 16% being severe.
While disposables are a little more convenient for busy parents, many problems have been linked to them. Asthma, birth defects, skin issues, allergic reactions, cancer and male infertility are all examples of what can arise from their use. A research study at the University of Kiel
in Germany makes a link between increased scrotal temperature in boys leading to male infertility, and disposable diaper use. Greenpeace
recently produced an article that highlights a very concerning link between the bleach used to whiten the paper found in so many of our everyday products, including disposable diapers, to the release of dioxins, which are considered some of the most toxic substances on the planet. Dioxin has been directly shown to cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, and skin diseases. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) posts warnings
on use of this substance. Another key component in disposable diapers, sodium polyacrylate (SAP), used to absorb moisture in disposable diapers, is the same substance used in tampons that caused toxic shock syndrome (TSS) in women during the mid-80's. TSS is an extremely harmful type of allergic reaction that can be fatal. SAP use in tampons has been discontinued due to these concerns. One has to ask, if they discontinued SAP in tampons, why would it’s use be permitted in baby diapers? Studies
also demonstrate that when SAP is injected into rats, hemmorrhaging, cardiovascular failure and death result. The key reason why SAP is so popular is that it ends up making the baby feel dry, even though the diaper is dirty. Does dry mean clean though? It obviously does not, but the disposable industry has consistently tried to spin this detail to make it look like it does mean clean. Urine in a wet diaper turns into ammonia and can breed some very nasty bacteria even if the diaper feels dry. And regardless of the type of diaper you use, babies should be changed frequently to prevent issues related to bacteria spreading, which can go beyond rashes, and lead to skin infections. Asthma-like symptoms due to the concentrations of perfumes and emissions from disposable diapers have also been found in mice
All of these issues surrounding disposables indicate that industry does not really know what the impact that the products they are producing on babies, and are in fact experimenting on the general public to see what works and what doesn’t, which is a very dangerous game they are playing.
The environmental hazards associated with the manufacture, use and throwing away of billions of disposables is a whole other major area of concern. In the US alone are more than 18 billion
single-use diapers are dumped into landfills each year. With parents waiting longer to potty train their children, and populations growing, these numbers are only increasing. The plastics in disposables take 6 lifetimes
to decompose, assuming that they are exposed to sun and air. The raw untreated sewage within disposables make them the third largest source of solid waste in landfills- first come newspapers and food/beverage containers. A Professor at the Centre for Groundwater Research
at the University of Waterloo highlights how untreated waste from disposable diapers can end up in our water supply. Her report details how many landfills have been put in places where no consideration or respect is paid to the geology or groundwater flow in the vicinity, and once bacteria like e-coli ends up in our groundwater, the effects can be very dire
. A point she makes clear is how many older landfills are either situated on geologic areas which are very permeable to water, which facilitates contamination. In addition to the raw waste issue affecting water sources, she further explains how 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp, which translates into a quarter million trees go into making disposables per year. The chlorinated byproducts of the decomposition can find their way into soil and public water supplies, further exacerbating water quality problems. With a global market for disposables reaching approximately $25 billion
each year, so many special interest groups are very motivated to argue against cloth reusable diapers, regardless of the risk to the environment.
Disposal is only one aspect of the problem. A study by the Landbank Consultancy
for the Women's Environmental Network shows definitively that single-use diapers take 3.5 times more energy to produce, 8 times the amount of non-renewable raw material, and 90 times more renewable material that cloth diapers. The carbon footprint
of disposable products in general is thus vastly higher than those of non-disposable products, due primarily to this extra manufacturing effort
required. As oil prices rise, and less resources become available, it will not be possible for us to go on like this. People frequently ask why cloth is better. We start by talking about the bigger picture- too many chemical processes are used nowadays to create all our products. The effect of these substances on us can be extreme in many cases. Some we can alter or lessen, others we have little control over.
The great news is that cloth is a fantastic alternative to disposables, without the negative consequences. And modern cloth diapers are triggering a comeback, as explained in another article
by the CBC.