Whilst doing a bit of research for our campaign this week, we came across an article from Ovo Energy comparing cloth nappies to single-use nappies. It was a little out of date and we have written to them suggesting some changes. Thanks to everyone in the Baba+Boo Hangout who have helped. This is how it went:
At Baba+Boo we’re on a mission to make reusable nappies the new normal - because it’s miles better for the environment and for parents’ pockets. We know that Ovo is a responsible energy supplier, so we were disappointed to read an article on your blog that contains inaccurate and out-of-date information about the environmental impact of nappies.
We would be happy to provide an updated blog for you about real life experiences of using cloth nappies (it’s highly likely we could use a current Ovo customer who could talk about the pros and cons of extra washes, washing costs, convenience etc). Alternatively, please could you take a look at the blog article in question to remedy the inaccuracies?
- The 2008 report your source is based on energy efficiency and water consumption figures from 2005/6. As you will know, the energy efficiency of washing machines (and dryers) has improved exponentially in the last 12 years, making this data obsolete.
- The report was discredited at the time of its publication because of the assumptions in the baseline scenario (which is the one quoted in your blog). These assumptions include always washing at 60 degrees with a pre-wash; using appliances that would now be considered antiques; regularly using a dryer, and only using nappies for one child.
- The far more realistic scenario - where nappies are used by more than one child; are line dried; and use an energy efficient washer (by 2008 standards!) reduced the CO2 impact to from 570kg to 308kg. Even this scenario does not take into account the dramatically reduced cost of washing at 40 degrees, which is common practice.
- Your article states that babies will use approximately 5,000 disposable nappies. It then states that disposables will have an impact of 550kg of CO2. However, this 550kg figure refers to just 3,796 nappies - three-quarters of your 5,000 figure.
- In the article you state “Disposables aren’t great for the environment”; “Pros [of disposables include] convenience: just chuck them away when you’re done”; and “They’re not great for landfill”. Single-use nappies are made of oil-based plastics and wood pulp grown for the purpose of being used once and then discarded. Disposable nappies do not break down and virtually all disposable nappies end up in landfill. Disposing of nappies adds £34million to council tax bills every year, in landfill tax alone. There is growing awareness about the impact of single-use plastic, and these phrases do not seem in keeping with the environmental ethics of a responsible energy provider.
- The article twice refers to reusable nappies being less absorbent than disposables; however, parents who use both cloth and single-use nappies consistently report they have fewer leaks with cloth nappies.
- The article states “Some [eco-friendly] brands, such as Nature Babycare are made from biodegradable material, which lessens the landfill impact.” Biodegradable materials do not degrade in landfill because landfill is designed to prevent the process of degradation (aerobic respiration). These nappies will have the same impact on landfill as any other single-use nappy; they are only environmentally friendlier in countries where they are composted.
We know that as an energy supplier you will be fully aware of how encouraging your consumers to make small changes to their behaviour and attitudes makes a big difference. As cloth nappy advocates, changing attitudes and challenging popular misconceptions is a key part of our role, which is why we felt the need to raise these issues.
If you would like to tap into any of our other resources please feel free to browse our blog.
With kind regards,