We’re so excited to let you know that residents in boroughs covered by the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), that’s Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest can get £70 off the cost of real nappies.  But it’s just for THIS week: European Week of Waste Reduction (EWWR) 21-29 November, so get your application in fast.  Please note you must have a baby under 18 months on the date of applying and not had a nappy voucher or cashback for that baby already.  See more here.

The NLWA real nappy incentive scheme was piloted back in 2003 in the London borough of Camden.  It was just £35 and only available to nappy laundry service customers.  It was such a success it spread to the other NLWA boroughs.  Residents who washed their own nappies were furious that the nappy cashback was not available to them.  The NLWA very quickly bowed to their demand and made it available to them.

In 2004 the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) working in partnership with other London boroughs and the NLWA did an extensive piece of research to find out whether giving out free nappies, a real nappy cashback or a voucher was the most effective incentive to get more people to try real nappies.  In 2007 the Real Nappies for London voucher scheme was established, open to all London boroughs and administered by the London Community Resource Network (LCRN).  The idea is that a pan-London real nappy scheme brings down the costs.

Indeed it has worked.  Boroughs pay £10 for the administration of each voucher redeemed by a resident.  The cost of collection and disposal of a tonne of nappy waste is approximately £160 per tonne (it differs between boroughs) so even if some people don’t continue to use the nappies (we assume half a tonne of nappy waste avoided per voucher redeemed to allow for no use, part-time and full-time use) the voucher scheme saves boroughs money.

Anecdotally we know that even when the voucher recipient doesn’t turn into a real nappy user s/he tends to pass on the reusable nappies to a friend or neighbour.  In this way real nappy culture has been spreading through informal networks not just within the voucher areas but beyond.

Real nappy culture spreads through social networks, both real and online and part of that is tips on getting your children out of nappies.  Another benefit of the Real Nappies for London scheme and real nappy use in general is knowledge about potty training.  In Brazil, where the switch from cloth nappies to disposables happened over a very short period (in the UK it took about 30 years for the disposable nappy to become ‘normal’) they have seen a dramatic rise in the length of time children spend in nappies, clearly increasing nappy waste. 

The Real Nappies for London journey has not been smooth.  During the R&D phase a life cycle nappy report came out (2005) that said the environmental impacts of disposables and cloth nappies were about the same, neither had an environmental advantage.  This report gained massive media coverage; it caused a sensation partly because it seemed so unbelievable.  And it’s not surprising as it wasn’t true!   In 2008 an update of the Environment Agency’s report came out that said cloth nappies could have up to 40% lower carbon impacts than disposables (and of course they’re virtually zero waste) but this report received scant media attention.

The myth has remained for the last 10 years that it’s just a matter of lifestyle choice.  It’s not.  People who use washable nappies are making a difference: they are significantly reducing the environmental impact their baby has on the planet.  And as you can see here in this 30 second film, it makes them feel good!

Please spread the word.  Sign up and get your £70 voucher to try real nappies today.