Digging the dirt on reusable nappies and menstrual products

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reusable nappies - blog post for zero waste week by anna at go real

reusable nappies - blog post for zero waste week by anna at go realAnna runs a company called Go Real – an award winning social enterprise delivering clear, independent and easy to understand information about reusable nappies and menstrual products.

Today she’s here to tell us more about why we should make the switch!

Here’s Anna:

“As parents the idea of reducing your household waste can be quite daunting.

You’re busy, changing nappies, cooking, cleaning and going to the park, taking the kids to school, going to work. The list goes on.

Thinking about what we’re putting in the bin can be hard to find time for. But this Zero Waste Week we want to encourage you to do this, take the time to think about how you can cut your house hold waste.

Two big household contributors to landfill are single use nappies and single use sanitary products. At Go Real we champion the use of reusable products. And here’s why;

Reusable nappies

Reusable nappies can be up to 40% better for the environment than disposables.  This was the finding from the 2008 update to the Environment Agency’s Life Cycle Analysis Report on nappies.  Unlike single use nappies, Reusable Nappies put parents in control of the impact they have on the environment, with the carbon savings directly related to how you choose to wash your nappies.

A Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a study which shows the impact of something across its entire life – from the production of the raw materials to the disposal of the finished item.  The Environment Agency first commissioned a LCA for nappies in 2004 and the report was published in 2005 to much criticism as it made very broad and sometimes incorrect assumptions about nappy use.  The updated study was published in 2008 and showed that, used responsibly; reusable nappies can be 40% better for the environment than single use nappies.

Using Reusable Nappies is an action that can be placed at the very top of the waste hierarchy as it helps you reduce the waste that you are creating in the first place and also means that you are reusing an item again and again.  Consequently Real Nappies have next to no impact on landfill sites as opposed to the 3 billion disposable nappies that are thrown away each and every year in the UK, 90% of these are landfilled.  A baby in disposables will need about 4,000 nappy changes in total, that’s 4,000 disposable nappies in a landfill site, or 24 Real Nappies hanging on your washing line!

There are so many different nappies to choose from, start by having a read up on the different styles available then contact your local nappy library to try before you buy, you can find your local library here.

Reusable Menstrual Products

Have you ever considered just how many single use sanitary pads or tampons the typical menstruating person will use in a life time?

The answer is about 15,000!

Now, that’s a huge cost to your purse, this could cost you up to £2000 depending on the brand you choose and how often you change them. It’s a huge cost to the environment to, most end up in landfill, but around 4 million pads and tampons get flushed down the loo every year in the UK (even though they are not designed for this!) they end up washed up on the shores of our beautiful British beaches.

In 2013 the Marine Conservation Society held a beach clean across 96.7km of UK coast line. They collected 428 tampons and tampon applicators per 4.4km and 1291sanitary pads, panty liners and backing strips per 13.3km!

What are your reusable options?

There are cloth pads, super comfy and easy to wash. Menstrual cups, can take a while to get the hang of, but once you’ve got it, you’ll not look back! Sea sponge tampons, no good if your vegan. But the only truly Zero Waste option as they can be composted when they reach the end of their tampon life. For loads of information on the different options available check out the Go Real website here!”

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Rachelle Strauss
Rachelle Strauss
Rachelle Strauss is founder of MyZeroWaste.com and ZeroWasteWeek.co.uk Both are leading websites for helping householders reduce landfill waste. Her work has attracted media stories and engagement in documentaries, film and radio both locally and abroad.

1 Comment

  1. I used washable nappies for both my boys and loved them – they were so easy and I am sure they were part of the reason that they both potty trained quickly and easily as they could feel the damp. They never once had nappy rash and we saved a fortune both financially and for the environment. I have to admit to not getting my head round reusable menstrual pads and, ahem, I am of a certain age now anyway. But I have seen that most French supermarkets now stock menstrual cups which is a great step in the right direction. Popping by very late from Zero Waste Heroes!

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