Real Nappy Manifesto

Real Nappies for London is a waste prevention 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, i.e – incineration and landfill, 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) in 2007, this pan-London project is uniting local governments, including five of North London’s Local Authorities – Barnet, Camden, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, and Waltham Forest, plus Bexley, Lambeth and the City of Westminster – with key stakeholders, influencing change on a national scale.

Real Nappies for London is committed to reducing 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 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 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.  Explore how to increase parental peer support for using washable nappies and potty training. See example of what is happening in Hackney with Hackney Nappy Network.
  7.  Make all London nurseries, public and private, aware that nappy laundry services can provide reusable cloth nappies for children in their care
  8.  Support nappy washing businesses: small flats with no outside drying space make washable nappies inconvenient for some London families.  We need to find out how to support nappy washing businesses across London that can take care of the washing.


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