Politicians – both local and national – say the reason why more people don’t use real nappies is because they don’t want to. It’s not. They don’t know about them. And if they do, they think of disposables as ‘normal nappies’ and real ones as hippy nappies. Once people try real nappies they can’t believe that more people don’t use them.

Let’s face it, what with the marketing of disposables to new parents in the hospitals via Bounty and the sponsorship of the NCT by Pampers plus the easy availability of disposables at the supermarket and now the idea that they can be recycled (even if the process uses ridiculous amounts of water and energy) it’s actually a miracle that so many people do use real nappies. Or it it? We still have the power of word-of-mouth. So please, keep talking about how good real nappies are and you will make a difference.

The Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) initiated the Waste Minimisation Act which became law back in 1998. It allows authorities to ‘do or arrange for the doing of, anything which in its opinion is necessary or expedient for the purpose of minimising the quantities of controlled waste, or controlled waste of any description, generated in its area’. Before this law councils had a legal obligation to get rid of waste but they weren’t allowed to spend money on preventing it. Seems nuts now, right?

It must be time to take the next step. I propose that local authorities should be spending at least 3% of what they spend on the collection and disposal of a single waste item, such as nappies (of course) on informing residents about the zero waste alternative (where there is one, as in the case of disposable nappies).

For example if a local authority has approximately 3,000 babies born in their borough each per year that means they have 7,500 babies wearing nappies (usually babies wear nappies up to two and a half). If those babies wear an average 5 nappies a day producing about 1kg of nappy waste per day, that’s almost 3,000 tonnes per year. That’s costing its residents about £450 k per year. So surely, seeing as using real nappies costs nothing in terms of disposal the local authority should be spending at least £13,500 per year on promoting the zero waste alternative? With a little encouragement getting 3% of babies into real nappies is not hard to achieve so the cost is recovered.

Tell us what your council is doing? Is it doing enough?