Nappies are single use plastic too – and it’s Time For a Change - Baba+Boo

Nappies are single use plastic too – and it’s Time For a Change

Sir David Attenborough has done it - he’s turned the tide against single-use plastic. Our politicians are clamouring to show they care; our news feeds are full of images of animal versus plastic. Single-use straws, hard-to-recycle coffee cups, unnecessarily packaged food - even makeup pads and sanitary products - are suddenly as popular as an oil tycoon at an eco-party.

But there's an elephant in the room. There’s a plastic problem that’s much bigger than coffee cups or straws. So why is no one talking about single-use nappies?

Part of the problem is that we still don’t think of single-use nappies as plastic. But they are. Most single-use nappies are about 50% plastic and 50% wood pulp - far more damaging than a coffee cup.

And we throw away eight million single-use nappies every day in the UK - over 3 billion times a year, which adds up to 400,000 tonnes. And coffee cups? Just 25,000 tonnes.

Ocean plastic is very much on people’s minds - and when it comes to the oceans then nappies really are nasties. Degrading nappies release a host of pretty potent chemicals that threaten marine life - and of course, rather a lot of untreated poo.

Ease of switch

If we're serious about changing our plastic habit, we need to look at the easy wins. And it doesn't get much easier than switching to reusable nappies. It's hard to find food that isn't over-packaged. It's hard to quit the plastic coffee cups if that's all that's on offer.

But with single-use nappies, you don't have to fight the retailers. You don't have to shop elsewhere or remember your reusable mug at all times.

Switching to cloth simply means a quick online purchase and you’re on your way.  

Someone somewhere has somehow managed to plant the idea that reusable nappies are ‘hard’. That single-use are easy and convenient. That, perhaps, is the other reason why people aren’t discussing single-use nappies. They don’t want to make a change they perceive as difficult.

Let’s take a moment to think about that. You pick up a nappy. You wrap it around your baby’s bum. Then you wash it. Seriously, parents, you’ve got this.

Politicians, environmental leaders and the public need to be honest with themselves. Do they care about plastics because it’s the latest bandwagon? Or do they care because they genuinely want to clean up our oceans and our planet?

Because if it’s the latter, then we need to get real. We need to tackle the biggest offenders with the easiest solutions. And that’s nappies. It’s Time For a Change - it’s time to ditch our single-use nappy habit and make reusables the new normal.

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Hi Maggie,
This has been looked at a few times and independent scientists have consistently shown that reusables use far fewer resources. For instance, making the pulp that goes into single use nappies takes lots of water and energy – manufacturing the 5,000ish single use nappies that a baby will need for 2.5 years uses almost 10 times more water than washing them for 2.5 years! And don’t forget that every single use nappy contains about a cup of crude oil. It’s pretty unusual to soak nappies these days, but these solutions have nothing like the toxicity of the chlorine etc that is used in single use nappies.

You’ve made such an important point here – that we can all choose to make our clothes and laundry far more planet kind by not tumble drying; having energy efficient washing machines; using renewable energy suppliers; and using environmentally kind detergents. I hope this helps alleviate your concerns, please do drop us a line if you have any questions.

Jane @ Baba+Boo

My concern is how many other resources are being overlooked in this change to reuseable.. . .ie chemicals the nappies are soaked in, detergents they are washed in and the power to heat water & dry th nappied?


I’ve been looking at changing my sons to reusable but at 5 with special needs it’s not really a known territory unfortunately

Jo cooksey

Noted, concerned about this too. However, what about nappies and pullups for adults? Their hygiene and respect for their bodies are at issue here.


2 children both cloth and reusable wipes. It’s saved us a fortune, is better for their bottoms and good for the environment. We even travel with them. My 10 month old has only ever had 4 days of disposables because of being in hospital. I would encourage people to try even replacing one a day would save so many nappies!

Liz Heitz

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