Making reusables the new normal

Making reusables the new normal


Five years’ ago I used my reusable shopping bag every time I went shopping. It seemed obvious. Why would I have a single use bag when there was a perfectly good alternative?

People smiled at me indulgently, clearly noting the fact that there was a radical eco-warrior in their midst (even if I was wearing a pencil skirt and heels). Occasionally people said things like “Oooh, aren’t you good! I could never remember to do that all the time!”

There were, apparently, so many reasons why using my own bag wouldn’t work. I had to use the shop’s own brand bag so that security knew I hadn’t stolen my purchases. I had to have a plastic bag for my vacuum packed chicken, in case it leaked. It was bad for my back to carry those big, heavy bags. It all felt a bit odd.

How times - and attitudes - have changed.

Five years later, I’ve got deja vu.

Councils are introducing a charge for taking disposable nappies to landfill. The reaction? Well, it’s causing a bit of a stink.

Parents and taxpayers are “angry and disgusted”. The Editor-in-Chief of Netmums called it “borderline scandalous”. Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson has described it as “unfair” and “penalising parents with young children”, while The Daily Mail is shouting about a ‘nappy tax’.

Like many parents who have used reusable nappies, I find it all a bit odd.

Reusables seem obvious. Why would I choose a single use nappy when there’s a perfectly good - and less expensive - alternative?

Yet the Daily Mail’s article didn’t even mention reusable nappies. And that gets to the heart of the problem. Five years’ ago, most people didn’t think there was an alternative to plastic bags, although there clearly was.

At the moment, the majority of parents simply don’t think about using cloth nappies. They just haven’t considered that there might be mainstream option other than disposables.

We think it’s time that changed.

We’re already paying a £34.4 million ‘nappy tax’

For starters, everyone who pays council tax is already paying a ‘nappy tax’. Local councils are taxed £86 for every tonne of waste they send to landfill; and each year, 400,000 tonnes of disposable nappies go to landfill.

That means that it costs us £34.4million to put disposable nappies into landfill. £34.4million. Each year.

It’s a question of scale

Think of the difference between a trump and a poo-nami. That’s the difference in the scale of the problem between single-use bags and single-use nappies.

‘Disposable’ nappies are a far bigger problem than single use bags. They take at least five times longer to degrade; they take up far more room in landfill; they are more damaging to manufacture; and they can’t be recycled.

So why do people care about plastic bags, but not plastic nappies?

It’s all about attitude

It’s not that long since it was perfectly acceptable to smoke in a restaurant; to drink and drive;  to go in a car without a seat belt.

Five years ago, plastic bags were the norm. Now they’re frowned upon.

We want to make a change. We want attitudes to change. We think it’s time that reusable nappies become the new normal.

Next week, we’ll be launching our campaign to achieve that. We want to get councils, midwives, health visitors and nurseries seeing reusables differently.

And we need you: the cloth bum parents, the nappy libraries, the people who see the world differently. We will need your help.

So please, if you want to save £34.4million a year; if you want to stop 400,000 tonnes of waste; if you want families to know that there is a cheaper and easy alternative, then join us. Sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, and help us turn reusables into the new normal.


  • This is really well-worded and it’s exactly how I feel. It might be more effort but the differences speak for themselves! x

    Lucy Melissa Smith
  • SO well put Eve! Let’s hope the “nappy tax” will start a total mind shift towards cloth! X


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