One of the Top Environmental Tragedies of the 20th Century

The use of disposable nappies has been called one of the top environmental tragedy's of the 20th century. Here is a brief history of moments in time where pressure points have surfaced.

Disposable nappies were marketed heavily in the 1970's after large investment into making a disposable product with desirable absorbency levels. In the 1970's concern rose about human excrement in landfills to the degree that the World Health Organization (WHO) called for an end of the inclusion of urine and excremint in solid waste. 

In the 1980's there were hundreds of news stories published on the environmental impact of disposable nappies and parents increasingly demanded reusable cotton nappies. In 1989, Connecticut, USA started phasing out all disposable products and New York considered requiring labels on all nappy products stating the environmental hazards.

In 1990, in the USA on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, legislation was introduced in 24 states to reduce the use of disposable nappies. 

In the first study not funded by industry related to disposable nappy production results found that disposable nappies used 7x more solid waste when dumped and 3x more waste in the manufacturing process. 

Then there was information put out to the public that the washing process had a significant impact on the environment. It is shown that one disposable nappy has the same environmental impact as a cloth nappy washed 200 times. The washing for nappies is the equivalent of flushing a toilet 5x more per day, and by today's standards, whereby washing machines are far more water efficient this may be even less the case.

In 1991 the Handbank Consultancy (an independent environmental agency in the UK) reviewed the research and it found that compared to cloth, disposable nappies used 20x more raw materials, 3x more energy, 2x more water and create 60x more waste.

Today, it is difficult to find information. This information is provided because it was published in a scientific and peer reviewed research journal; ensuring some level of quality control.