“Choose to Reuse”: Reusable Nappy Week 2021 to raise awareness of the environmental benefits of choosing reusable nappies.

Reusable Nappy Week is an annual event organised by the reusable nappy industry with the support of NGOs and local government which shows parents and caregivers how easy it is to change from disposable nappies and reduce their part in the nearly 3 billion single-use nappies that end up in landfill or incineration in the UK every year. Now in its 25th year, Reusable Nappy Week will take place in 2021 between 19th and 25th April with the theme “Choose to Reuse”.

As part of the fun online activities and educational events being organised, families already using reusable nappies will advocate the benefits and demonstrate how easy reusable nappies are. By helping parents and carers understand the reusable nappy journey – from how to get started, to where to source nappies, to top tips on laundry – they will be encouraged to take their first step by pledging to swap out single-use nappies for one day a week reducing single-use plastic waste equivalent to 17 plastic bags.

During the week Real Nappies for London will be promoting its reusable nappy voucher scheme as well as hosting a series of online events such as reusable nappy demonstrations, coffee mornings, London’s Reusable Nappy Festival and a live stream with The Nappy Lady on Social Media.

Using the hashtag #PassTheNappy, Real Nappies for London will also be launching their new virtual ‘Nappy Exchange and Meetup’ Facebook Group encouraging families to pass-on good quality reusable nappies to others expecting a baby or with a child in nappies, showing the cost-saving and environmental benefits reusable nappies have – that they can be passed on and reused on subsequent children, whether that be siblings or other families, time and time again, saving millions of single-use nappies from going to disposal.

Alice Walker, project manager at Real Nappies for London and representative of the UK’s RNW Steering Committee, said:

“Reusable Nappy Week is about drawing on our community to show parents that ditching disposable nappies for reusable cloth nappies doesn’t have to be complicated or labour-intensive, and that just a small action, such as switching for one day a week, can have a meaningful impact on the environment. The week offers information and support through participation in engaging activities, as well as the opportunity to play a part in a societal shift to a circular waste system that prioritises reuse.”

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) arranges membership of the reusable nappy subsidy scheme on behalf of its constituent boroughs. Its Managing Director, Martin Capstick, said:

“Last year, the uptake of the reusable nappy scheme subsidy more than doubled in north London compared to the previous year: it rose from 699 participants to 1,723. We estimate that this prevented 823 tonnes of nappies from going to disposal.

“Disposable nappies are a particularly problematic type of waste – both in terms of the energy and resources that go into making them, but also in terms of disposal. Through the subsidy scheme, we hope to give parents the chance to give reusable nappies a try – if everyone used them even occasionally, collectively we can make a big difference.”

Real Nappies for London, a waste prevention project administered by the Women’s Environmental Network, currently works in partnership with eight London Boroughs (Bexley, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth and Waltham Forest) offering parents with a baby under 18 months, and parents-to-be, living in the borough, with a reusable nappy voucher worth up to £54.15 redeemable for a pack of reusable nappies or for a trial washable nappy laundry service. Research has shown the voucher scheme to be a cost-effective mechanism with a real impact on public waste disposal budgets: councils save eleven times as much on waste disposal as they spend administering the scheme.

To find out more about Real Nappies for London and how to get involved with Reusable Nappy Week, visit the Real Nappies for London website and Reusable Nappy Week website and follow #ReusableNappyWeek on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Notes to Editors

List of Real Nappies for London events taking place during Reusable Nappy Week 19th – 25th April 2021 can be found here: https://www.realnappiesforlondon.org.uk/reusable-nappy-week-2021

Contact: Alice Walker, Real Nappies for London, Women’s Environmental Network.

020 3150 2023 | alice@wen.org.uk

The UK Reusable Nappy Week Steering Committee members are currently:

  • Alice Walker – Real Nappies for London
  • Dotty Bromley-Morgans – South London Nappies (part of the UK Cloth Nappy Library Network)
  • Eilidh Pollard – South London Nappies (part of the UK Cloth Nappy Library Network)
  • Elisabeth Whitebread – The Nappy Alliance
  • Emily Norman – TotsBots / Frugi (part of The Nappy Alliance)
  • Wendy Richards – The Nappy Lady (part of The Nappy Alliance)
  • Miranda Stamp – Twinkle on the Web
  • Ian Rapley – Number One for Nappies (Washable Nappy Laundry Service)


Environmental Impacts

  • Disposable nappies, a significant identifiable product within the Local Authority Collected Waste stream, totals approximately 4% of the residual fraction in England and equates to around 3 billion units, weighing an estimated 690,000 tonnes, costing LAs over £60 million per annum for disposal. Source: Wrap (2016) Comparing the Cost of Alternative Waste Treatment Options – Gate Fees Report 2016.
  • Single-use nappy usage equates to throwing away 17 plastic bags a day: 6,205 per year, per child. Source: The Nappy Alliance (2021).
  • The average composition of a UK disposable nappy is made up of 61% plastic. Source: Environment Agency (2008) An Update Lifecycle Assessment Study for Disposable and Reusable Nappies.
  • The majority of single-use nappies are sent for incineration – or in countries without adequate waste management, openly burned – contributing to air pollution and climate change.
  • If landfilled, a single-use plastic disposable nappy can take approx. 450 years to break down. Source: BBC News (2017) Seven Charts that Explain the Plastic Pollution Problem
  • Research by NLWA finds 1 in 10 parents admit to throwing dirty disposable nappies in household recycling, costing £1.5m of contamination met by North London taxpayers every year. Source: NLWA (2019) 1 in 10 Parents Admit Throwing Dirty Nappies in the Recycling


Environmental Savings


Financial Impacts

  • Single-use nappies are a major expense for low-income households: in the UK a family with two children in nappies could spend up to 46% of child benefit just on single use nappies. Source: APPG on Poverty (2019) The hidden hurdle of nappy need for struggling families.
  • Families who use reusable nappies can make a financial saving of up to £1,000 over 2.5 years. Further savings can be made if using the same reusable nappies on subsequent children. Source: Real Nappies for London (2021) ‘Why Real Nappies: Better for You’
  • UK councils which offer financial incentives to parents to purchase reusable nappies have saved eleven times as much on waste disposal as they have spent administering the scheme, and this saving could be further improved by modernisation and expansion of these schemes. Source: Warner, Vick, Walker & Hill (2017) Contribution of ‘Real Nappies for London’ to local authority waste prevention, 2012-2016


Health Impacts


Information to Develop a Circular Economy

  • The UK Government needs to recognise the importance to tackle single-use plastic nappy waste and publish strategies with targets to reduce waste and encourage circular activities such as, supporting washable nappy laundry services; cloth nappy libraries; free reusable nappies in national baby box schemes for new parents.




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