Disposable diapers are for SINGLE USE only

Posted by Bryana on 5/1/2007 to Cloth vs. Disposables

Use a cloth diaper again and again. By definition, disposable diapers are single use items. The debate rages on and on whether or not disposable diapers are more environmentally sound than cloth diapers, but for the life of me I can't figure out why.

Let's look at a few dictionary definitions of the word disposable, courtest of Dictionary.com:
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary 1 diˈsposable (adjective) - intended to be thrown away or destroyed after use American Heritage Dictionary dis·pos·a·ble (adjective) - Designed to be disposed of after use: disposable diapers; disposable razors. dis·pos·a·ble (noun) - An article, such as a paper diaper or hypodermic syringe, that can be disposed of after one use. 2

How can any single-use item be more environmentally "sound" than a reusable item. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responds to the question "Is Recycling Worthwhile" by stating:,br/> "Recycling is one of the best environmental success stories of the late 20th century. Recycling, which includes composting, diverted over 72 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2003, up from 34 million tons in 1990—doubling in just 10 years. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources."

The U.S. EPA goes on to state that:
"As a matter of fact, collecting recyclable materials is just the first step in a series of actions that generate a host of financial, environmental, and societal returns. There are several key benefits to recycling. Recycling:

  • Protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.
  • Reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
  • Saves energy and prevents pollution caused by the extraction and processing of virgin materials and the manufacture of products using virgin materials.
  • Decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.
  • Helps sustain the environment for future generations."

And yet, Tender Care Diapers, promoting themselves in Google's Sponsored Links as the Eco-Friendly Diaper, boast ON THEIR PACKAGING that their diapers are not made from any recycled materials.

An "Earth-friendly disposable diaper lets parents flush away the guilt." is a testimonial on the gDiapers website from The Oregonian. And though it may be true that the diaper successfully breaks down into the sewage system, how can it be considered earth-friendly when it is a product that can only be consumed once before it is flushed? Where is the reduce, reuse, recycle concept that the Federal Government promotes?

As stated in Tiny Tots article, Misleading claims by Single-Use Diaper Manufacturers, "There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly single-use diaper."

Cloth diapers do not defy the need for reduce, reuse and recycle. Each cloth diaper purchased reduces the number of trees cut down to diaper a child. Each cloth diaper purchased can be reused across subsequent children. And then, when it is no longer absorbent, can be made into rags or even sewn into soakers or diaper doublers to add layers to a diapering system. And finally, cloth diapers - by being reused - are recycled; the cloth fibers will one day break down and return to the earth.

I have spent several years watching the emergence of manufacturers creating disposable diapers that are more absorbent (in the late 70's), more leak proof (in the early 80's), more trim (in the 80's on into the 90's) without losing absorbency. And now in the new millenium, the push being for eco-friendly disposables.

But people - disposables are just that - throwaways; a single use product that can be defined in no other way except by their definition ... disposable.

Sources:
  1. American Psychological Association (APA): disposable. (n.d.). Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary. Retrieved April 30, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposable Chicago Manual Style (CMS): disposable. Dictionary.com. Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary. K Dictionaries Ltd. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposable (accessed: April 30, 2007). Modern Language Association (MLA): "disposable." Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary. K Dictionaries Ltd. 30 Apr. 2007. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposable. Dictionary.com.
  2. American Psychological Association (APA): disposable. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved April 30, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposable Chicago Manual Style (CMS): disposable. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposable (accessed: April 30, 2007). Modern Language Association (MLA): "disposable." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 30 Apr. 2007. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposable. Dictionary.com .

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