The election of the next London Mayor in May is an opportunity to raise the issue of London’s nappy waste. 

Real Nappies for London

This is a call for the next London Mayor to take action to reduce disposable nappy waste

  • By making washable nappies seem as normal as recycling
  • And giving parents better information about potty training

Real Nappies for London is a pan-London leadership initiative that brings together local government, business and community change agents to advance the prevention of disposable nappy waste. With efforts traditionally focused on ‘end-of-pipe’ waste management ie incineration, landfill or even recycling, Real Nappies for London is pioneering a shift upstream – calling for city-wide action to address nappy waste generation. By reframing the conversation, Real Nappies for London is positioning waste prevention and the circular economy as an opportunity for innovation, job creation, competitiveness, cost saving and improving public health.

Founded by the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and now administerd by the London Community Resource Network (LCRN), this pan-London project is uniting local governments, including five of North London’s local authorities – Hackney, Camden, Islington, Haringey and WalthamForest, plus Bexley and Tower Hamlets  – with key stakeholders, influencing change on a national scale.

Real Nappies for London is committed to helping reduce disposable nappy waste in London.  A baby in single-use nappies produces approximately 7kg of nappy waste per week.  The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimated in 2008 that the average baby wearing nappies until 2.5 years old generates 874 kg of nappy waste, nearly a tonne.

Background to London’s nappy waste problem
Every year more than 130k babies are born in London and most wear single-use nappies because parents/carers are not aware of easy washable alternatives.    If all parents receive consistent, accurate information and support the vast majority could use washable nappies.

Also the trend has grown for toddlers to stay in nappies a lot longer.  This means the nappy waste can be even more.  We are committed to developing and sharing the best information to help parents and carers potty train their children successfully.  Nappy waste in residual household collections can be as high as 9% and costs Londoners a staggering £20 million per year. Children staying in nappies longer than necessary is also a household cost that families on low incomes cannot afford.

Real Nappies for London Mayoral Manifesto for 2016 – for less nappy waste

  1. Gather data and find out what is happening: Commission research to find out how many babies in London wear washable nappies.  This research would show the impact of current incentives that have been used in different boroughs to increase uptake of washables.
  2. Commission a study: to find out the knowledge and expectations parents have of how and when to potty train.  This will enable you to ascertain how to reach parents in most need.  This could be done quite cheaply in partnership with a mainstream online parenting player like the Baby Centre.
  3. Ensure parents from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds are aware of the availability and benefits of modern cloth nappies for their babies.  This can be done cheaply and easily by including information about cloth nappies and Real Nappies for London with the maternity prescription exemption card that goes out to all expectant mothers
  4. Make real nappies seem normal: make as commonplace as recycling by putting messages about real nappies on the sides of recycling and refuse trucks.
  5. All maternity care providers and NHS maternity hospitals should invite the mother to bring to the hospital the nappy of her choice (not specifically ask her to bring in disposable nappies)
  6. Ensure all expectant and new parents are aware of real nappy support services that exist, such as nappuccinos and cloth nappy libraries
  7. Explore how to increase parental peer support for using washable nappies and potty training.  See the example of what is happening in Hackney with the Hackney Real Nappy Network (HRNN)
  8. Make all London nurseries, public and private, aware that nappy laundry services can provide reusable cloth nappies for children in their care
  9. Support nappy washing businesses: small flats with no outside drying space make washable nappies inconvenient for some London families.  You need to find out how to support nappy washing businesses across London that can take care of the washing.

Signatories so far:

The Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) has been campaigning for waste minimisation for almost 20 years.  Reducing disposable nappy waste is part of the circular economy agenda and WEN supports this manifesto.  Raising awareness of alternatives to disposable nappies and potty training not only reduces the cost of waste collection and disposal, it also creates green jobs,  stimulates community engagement and local enterprise, can prevent significant public health costs and save households money.

As a national charity PromoCon works to provide information and advice around all aspects of continence for both adults and children, including advice and support for toilet training.  We welcome any initiatives that not only helps to inform parents and promotes timely toilet training, but also helps identify key issues regarding what influences parental choice about the type of nappies that they use (washable or disposable) including whether having a child with a disability impacts on their choices.  We would be happy for Real Nappies to have links to the toilet training resources within our website.

Wandsworth Council supports waste reduction where this can be achieved cost-effectively.  It therefore endorses this manifesto subject to the actions it contains being implemented cost-effectively.


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