Disposable nappies are convenient, but what is the impact on our landfills?
"Brown calculated that with SA’s population of 45 million people, more than 700 000 tons of absorbent waste, such as nappies, would be going to landfills every day." (1)
"Gauteng currently generates in excess of 1.7 billion nappies per year alone, excluding female hygiene and adult incontinence products." (2)
We can calculate the disposable nappy waste going to landfills.
We use the following assumptions:
- A child will use an average of 4.6 disposable nappies per day (3)
- The average child will use nappies for 30 months (3)
- The average used disposable nappy weighs 230g (4).
A single child will therefore use 4140 disposable nappies and generate almost a ton of waste (952kg) by the time they have potty learned.
In contrast, a child using cloth nappies will generate roughly 2.2kg of nappy waste. (5)
The numbers really start to stack up when we extrapolate that to the baby & toddler population of South Africa.
The nett number of births in South Africa (after subtracting perinatal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths) is 910,569. (6).
If all babies/toddlers wear disposable nappies, this means that 10 471 541 nappies will go to landfills every single day. (7) Or said differently - 2,408 tonnes of disposable nappy waste will go to landfills every single day.
Here's some real life examples from parents that have used cloth nappies with their children and the impact it would have had if they had used disposables instead.
5. Assumes a stash of 24 cloth nappies, used on two children and then disposed. We assume the average cloth nappy weighs the same as a used disposable, ie 230g. 24 x 230g = 5.5kg divided by 2 children = 2.2kg per child.
7. 910,569 x 2.5 years = +/- 2,276,422 babies/children in nappies at any time. 2,276,422 x 4.6 nappies per day = 10,471,541 nappies used per day. 10,471,541 nappies x 230g per nappy = 2,408 tonnes.
8. Cloth nappies at night were calculated at 300g per nappy, you need on average 4 nappies which will be 1.2kg divided by 2 children = 600gram per child. To calculate the weight of the disposables, on average it takes 36 months to night potty train, 1 disposable nappy per night for 36 months mean 1134 disposables. 1134 x 230gram = 260,82 kg