The Lifecycle Assessment for Disposable and Reusable Nappies


The Environment Agency first commissioned a lifecycle assessment for nappies in 2004 and the report was published in 2005. The outcome of the study brought much criticism as it made broad and sometimes incorrect assumptions about real nappy use. The updated study published in 2008 showed that, when used responsibly, real nappies can be 40% better for the environment than disposable nappies.

Cloth nappy users can reduce their environmental impacts by:

  • Line drying outside whenever possible.
  • Tumble drying as little as possible.
  • When replacing appliances, choosing more energy efficient appliances (A+ rated machines are preferred).
  • Not washing above 60°C.
  • Washing fuller loads.
  • Reusing nappies on other children.

Putting Real Nappies at the Top of the Waste Hierarchy

Using real nappies is an action that can be placed at the very top of the waste hierarchy as it helps you reduce the waste that you are creating in the first place and also means that you are reusing an item again and again.

Real nappies have next to no impact on landfill sites as opposed to the 8 billion disposable nappies that are thrown away each year in the UK, 90% of these are landfilled. 

A baby in disposables will need nearly 2,000 nappy changes for every year he or she is in nappies, that’s 4 –  5,000 disposable nappies in a landfill site, or 24 real nappies hanging on your washing line!