Reduce Diaper / Nappy Volume, Reduce Landfill. Squeemish Beware.




Introduction: Reduce Diaper / Nappy Volume, Reduce Landfill. Squeemish Beware.

Here's some things you can do to drastically skinny that nappy before disposing of it.

But first let's think on this......

If you've got babies then use washable diapers / nappies. If you can't handle washing them yourself then sign up to a nappy wash service.
In the UK you could be saving around �500 a year if you switch to re-usables ( source1 )

3 billion nappies / diapers end up in UK landfill per year.

49 million diapers / nappies used in the US per day! ( )source2

Disposable diapers / nappies have a decomposition rate of 550 years ( source3)

So read on for a green way to reduce the volume of a diaper, if it's squeemish that your are, then go and look at the cake contest, actually have a look at my chocolate cake instructable and give it your vote ;) ......

Big thanks to Ropable for the image

Step 1: The Offending Article # 1. Pluggies Full-ups TM

No puritanical hoo-haar about not ever, ever,ever using disposables. If you've got bubs, then chances are you are going to use disposables at some time.
However, when you've got a diaper / nappy full of POO! ( there, I've said it ) flush that dump away before you wrap the diaper / nappy and bin it. Common sense - DON"T flush the whole thing, just the poo.

So let's have a talk about tweetle beatles. Um sorry parenthood seems to have addled my brain.

So lets have a closer look at a nappy / diaper, this one is full of pee.

The UK disposable nappy / diaper basically consists of celluslose 'fluff' from cotton pulp that, along with a super-absorbent material called SAP ( more on this later ) tries to hold the babies waste away from the skin. Polypropylene mesh holds this absorbent pad inside and to a greater or lesser extent also wicks fluid away from the babies skin. Elasticated barriers hold the nappy to the contours of the baby along with the stretch elastic waist tabs ( more on these in another instructable ). A high density polyethylene sheet stops the whole slop gushing out, in cheaper diapers this is evident, on the more expensive brands it's covered with yet another layer of polypropylene mesh. Apply cute graphics liberally and there you have an Eco time bomb just waiting to be 'primed'.

Step 2: What's Inside?

Eek! Better keep this out of landfill and on the compost heap where we can put it to good use.

Step 3: Disgorge That Diaper / Nappy

It's in the compost caddy and ready to serve as an excellent accelerator for the decomposition of garden and kitchen waste on the compost heap. This is due urea compounds - high in nitrogen found in pee, but there's an extra bonus, remember the SAP polymer I was talking about? It's good old super-absorbent sodium acrylate, used in garden centres as water gel in plant pots, as a fire retardant, soil erosion reducer. In short it's too good to bury in landfill.

Step 4: Before and After....

Estimating the weight of a morning diaper full of pee at 1 pound. The disgorged nappy weighs in at under two ounces. The volume reduction speaks for itself.

Step 5: Lastly

To conclude, please try to go over to a re-usable nappy system, they pay for themselves financially and environmentally. For the occasions that you do use disposables remember to reduce reuse recycle.

A viewpoint on the UK Environment Agencies amateur-ish life cycle analysis can be found here

Further reading on disposables and waste management can be found here .

Further reading on pee can be found here .



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    39 Discussions

    Not a child-owner (believe me, I'm as broody as the broodiest woman you ever met - I just can't find a member of womankind who wants to spawn with me), but one issue with the cloth / washable nappies is the additional detergents used to clean them. And the electricity if you're using a washing machine. Not bringing your belief in them down - I just have a habit of being devil's advocate and pointing out the flaws in both sides!

    4 replies

    I hand wash all of my reusable diapers in a biodegradable soap and hang dry them. There is no way of saying that adding to the landfill is lesser then the electricity used, but even with some of the greener alternatives in electricity and energy saving appliances, there are better ways.

    See my above note... i remember my ex-boss having done some math (he was good at that sort of thing, i'm not, really) about the number of disposables his small diaper service had kept out of landfills, and though i don't remember the number, i remember it was staggeringly large. He was the sort of person who was inclined toward understatement. And it can be done with non-chlorine bleaching. (although they don't get quite as sparklingly white). Devil's advocacy is a good thing, thanks. Best of luck spawning.

    I still tend to vote greener for things that don't sit in landfills vs. things that use more energy. Of course people could use alt energy/ electric free washers. And hopefully anyone using cloth diapers is using a biodegradeable detergent! Add a grey water system and it has to be better.

    For the really really dedicated.

    *I just can't find a member of womankind who wants to spawn with me* Yeah, tell me about it I had to resort to parthenogenesis. Seriously though, hang in there fella. Cheers for the demonic advocation, you'll not bring my belief in them down ( there's no zealot like a cloth nappy zealot :-) I believe they are green, greener, greeniest ( Bah, the spell checker wouldn't let me have that last one )

    Great post! We have a neighbor who has built a machine (out of recycled parts) that does just as you show here. It removes all the insides from the outer plastic liner. Everyone in our neighborhood who uses disposable diapers, and there are a lot, saves the diapers for him and he puts them through this machine. Not only does he compost the insides but, the plastic outside liners are sent to a plastic recycling facility so nothing goes to landfill! I just went along for his bi-weekly collection and was amazed to see just how many diapers get used in our neighborhood alone! We collected nearly one ton in under 3 hours that would have all gone to landfill if it were not for this great invention and the ability to reuse this very high quality SAP for composting and plastic for recycling! Thanx for this instructable, it is very good advice that works great!

    I've been trying to convince my wife that this is a good thing for years. It seems the white material in the garden cries out for explanations and the obvious discussion, drawing attention away from the beauty of the flowers. A cheap dye might be in order. Any Ideas? Is there a standard mix between clippings, kitchen waste, and nappies?

    Used to work at a diaper service (don't know what that's called on your side of the pond, but you get the idea) - i was the glorious diaper washer (upwards of 400 per day, in the BIG industrial washer) and it wasn't at all hard to get used to. Actually, i really liked my job, and free diapers once a week, when our little ones came along. (congrats on that, by the way). Anyway, apart from all that, the environmental issues, and so on, they're better for babies' bottoms! Hands down! Far fewer rashes, better comfort, earlier potty training, too, generally. Oh, and as an experienced - far too - cake eater, i can tell by the look of that one that it's never even been NEAR a diaper.

    Not using any of the ingredients from this instructable for the chocolate cake I hope...

    1 reply

    There's another viable possibility that you haven't considered and it's called "elimination communication" or "diaper free". Most of the developed world has conveniently forgotten that we are mammals and not so very long ago diapers didn't exist. Like baby animals, we didn't pee and poop willy-nillly and all over the place. The same holds true today. It maybe hard to believe but babies do not want to defecate or urinate all over themselves, they get upset to "tell" their caregiver that they need to go. Here in developed countries we teach our kids to soil themselves in diapers (out of convenience) and then we wonder why it is so hard to toilet train them! Why not skip those steps altogether? You think I'm nuts? In most of the non-developed world (India, China, Many countries in Africa) this is what they do. It's also becoming more practiced in North America. I've done it with my own son (born last June) and it really is amazing. Sure he has accidents every once in a while, and I'm not saying that he goes without a diaper. I'm just saying that he doesn't necessarily use the diaper. So, if you want to get out of the whole cloth/disposable diaper debate, just try to get out of using the diapers altogether and you won't have to worry about whether filling up the dumps or using too much water and detergent is worse. Decrease on both. Here I use both disposable and cloth, but mostly as protection in case the toilet is too far away for the little guy to hold it. When we go out, my son goes in a disposable. Mind you, at 10.5 months old we just started our 4th bag of disposables (we go through one diaper every couple days), and wash our 26 cloth diapers about once every 10 days. I would say that we've probably cut diaper use by at least 80%, probably more.

    9 replies

    This is very interesting, I was not even aware of "elimination communication" ~ apart from my kids gruntin' when taking a dump :-) We'll have a closer look if we decide to go for another ( what am I saying! ). However, can you see it being 'bought' by mainstream society in the developed world? Everyone loves convenience. Emptying the pee onto the compost heap will remove it from the leachate that has to be dealt with at landfill sites. Thanks for the heads up on this.

    Interestingly enough, it has quite a support in the US and Canada, and many are picking it up as a way to toilet train their kids starting at a year or so. I've accidentally run into a handful or two of people who are trying it, though not necessarily from birth. My doctor, in fact, has been suggesting it to his pregnant mothers. Another benefit is that if I ever have to have my son pee in a cup at the doctor's, it's no problem! Several people I know have had to have catheters and such for urine samples from their babies. So, yeah, I do actually see many people catching on, particularly those who stay home with their kids for a couple months instead of rushing back to work. You're right, though, many people wouldn't go for it - though if you thought about anyone sitting in their own pee or poop for any length of time as they do in disposable diapers, a whole bunch of people would change their minds pretty quickly!

    All well and good, but the time involved in EC is simply not compatible with both parents working. It's great if you're a stay at home mom, but when both parents work a 60 hour week and the child is in daycare, there really is only one option and that's disposables. Sure, maybe some of you in the Bay Area or isolated spots of the country can find daycare that uses EC, but for us mere mortals in the real world of balancing careers and children, it is simply not possible.

    EC is a study in priorities. We value our baby's health and our environment over any job, so we use EC successfully. We have found jobs that work with our lifestyle, not lifestyles that work around our jobs. It should be noted that washing diapers is as harmful or more harmful to the environment as disposables. Disposables can be used in gasifiers to produce petroleum substitutes, but washing diapers not only wastes water, but also adds an enormous amount of methane to the atmosphere. Also, EC could be compatible with day care, if we wanted it to be! I do think it is terrible that parents have to choose between their baby or their job. As for me, I quit the job!

    What about washing diapers somehow combined with a grey/black water system? I realize blackwater systems are difficult, but perhaps if you grey watered the rest of your clothes and pee diapers you could justify regular washing of cloth diapers. You'd have to be able to switch between grey and sewage lines from your washer I suppose. All guesses on my part. My ideal would probably be EC with cloth for back up. Are you sure about the safety of sodium acrylate in compost? It seems like one of the chemicals garden centers sell that I still wouldn't really like in my food.

    Yes, vela!, last posting was in May and our son is now 14mo old and at a day home. He is actually doing great with the day home in terms of maintaining EC (probably better than with us on weekends because there's a better schedule!) He now pees (and occasionally #2) on the toilet (it was easier than teaching the day home provider how to hold him over a bowl/ toilet. Since he already knows when he needs to pee (from the EC) he is doing great with the toilet training. He even goes and bangs on the toilet when he has to go sometimes! I must say that as much as we’ve gained bond-wise and lack of garbage and pollutants-wise, we still go a ½ and 1/2 disposable and cloth for safety– we use disposables if we go out. On the other hand, we still have only purchased 7 packages of disposables since he was born and still have more than ½ a box left. I’m hoping we don’t have to buy any ever again (for son)!

    Yeah, our little guys is 5 months old now, rarely uses a diaper, although we use a cloth for backups. #2 was easier for us, and the only pee we miss is usually the very early morning, like 5 in the morning, and he is asleep for it, too! We love EC, and can't imagine why anyone would not want to do it, though we don't let many things get in the way of our lifestyle, including jobs, taxes, critics, etc. :) Good work!

    Fair enough. That said, have you considered the proposition of reducing the diaper volume by composting the pee/gel before disposing 'shell' ?

    vigil22, you are right about it taking a lot of time if you do EC full time. I actually live in Edmonton and there are no daycares here that I know of that use EC. The thing is that EC doesn't need to be a full-time thing. We currently do it at night, and some just do it as a "get that first pee in the morning and lose that first diaper change". Actually, the neat thing I've found (and I work full time), is that when he's with me he tells me (by crying) that he has to pee. In a daycare situation, that isn't too much of a problem - in fact it takes less time to take him to the bathroom and put the diaper back on than to change a dirty diaper. But, I agree. If it's too much of a hastle for you, then disposables are your answer.