Organic diapers – The alternative disposable diaper for when you don’t have a choice
There would be days and occasions that you will not have a choice and you will have to use disposable diapers or nappies. House guests or endless days of rain might make it difficult to wash and dry reusable diapers.
Traveling with a baby or toddler that are in nappies, invariably means that you can’t wash and dry reusable diapers. Going on a car journey it might still be possible, but taking a long haul flight and you don’t have the space or weight allowance to be traveling with enough diapers for the journey. Storing the used diapers might also be a problem, so one needs to look at what is available as the best alternative to reusable diapers.
What goes into a disposable diaper?
A disposable diaper consists of three layers:
- The inner layer is what touches your baby’s skin and most manufacturers won’t tell you what is in the inner layer. This is the layer that is suppose to stay relatively dry and wick moisture away from your baby’s skin. If your baby has a rash or allergic reaction, it is often because of something in the inner layer. Most manufacturers use polypropylene for the inner layers of disposable diapers. Fragrances are often added to mask the smell of wee and pooh, but this can cause allergic reactions to your baby’s delicate skin. So it makes it even more important to opt for organic diapers.
- The middle layer is the absorbent core and is normally a combination of fluffy materials and chemical crystals. The fluffy part is normally made from wood pulp and the role is to distribute fluids across the surface of the diaper. Chemical crystals are used to trap fluids and keep wetness away from your baby’s skin. Most companies use a material called Super Absorbency Polymer (SAP) for the chemical crystals as SAP can absorb up to 300 times its own weight in water and retain it. SAP is derived from petroleum and there might be chemicals in there that are not safe for babies and kids. Not enough testing has been done on SAP to make sure that it is non-toxic and safe. In the past SAP has been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), although it does appear that SAP was not the cause on its own.
- The waterproof outer layer of a diaper prevents any fluids or wetness from leaking out. It is made from plastic or plastic treated material which is typically petroleum based. The waterproof shell in an eco-friendly organic diaper is normally made from a bio plastic or a plant based coating which is known as PLA or polylactic acid. PLA is derived from sugar cane or corn starch.
Other things that are used in manufacturing disposable are adhesive in the tabs and inks or dyes in the designs.
What to look out for and avoid in a disposable diaper
- It must be completely free of chemicals. You want to avoid toxic substances that are harmful to your baby and the environment.
- Chlorine or peroxide is often used to bleach the materials used in disposable diapers. Dioxin, which is a carcinogenic substance, is often found in the presence of chlorine and peroxide. So choose a diaper that is unbleached or chlorine free to avoid dioxins.
- Dyes and inks can be found in the designs (to make the diaper look pretty), the wetness indicator and also in the elastic around the legs and at the back of the waist. Dyes can cause rashes and allergic reactions so make sure that the diaper is free from dyes or that plant based pigments are used. It is best to avoid colorants and heavy metals.
- Latex can be used to add stretch to the diaper, but it can cause allergic reaction, so best to choose latex free diapers
- Perfume or fragrance free – manufacturers are not obliged to reveal or list the fragrances that are used, so many manufacturers hide the chemicals that are used in the fragrance ingredients list, which makes it difficult to establish exactly what is in there.
- Avoid Phthalates which is a group of chemicals that are used to make plastic softer, pliable and more durable. It is often also present in dyes, synthetic fragrances and glues
What is an eco-friendly organic diaper or nappy?
The best alternative to a reusable diaper is an organic disposable diaper. Pulp used in disposable diapers come from forests and an organic diaper should be FSC certified to guarantee that the pulp comes from sustainable sources. An organic diaper will be made from unbleached materials and free of any chemicals, dyes, fragrances or toxic substances.
An organic diaper will have a bio plastic or PLA waterproof outer. Eco-friendly organic diapers might cost more than chemical filled diapers, but the benefit to your baby outweighs the slightly higher price.
The diaper company needs to be transparent about what is in their diapers and products. With many parents demanding to know what is in a disposable diaper, many manufacturers will give you a list of what is NOT in the diaper. If ingredients are not listed or stated, then assume that it is indeed present in the diaper and avoid those diapers.
Your best choice for organic diapers and baby products is from Madeof.com. All their products are made from organic and plant derived ingredients. They are transparent in their lists of ingredients – it is made with nothing to hide. These organic products have NSF organic certification and are certified vegan, non GMO and gluten free, as well as free of phthalates, parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, SLS, dyes, pesticides, chlorine, BPA and many more. Products that are safe for your baby, yourself and your home.
What happens to a disposable diaper?
About a third of household waste consists of disposable diapers. It is estimated that approximately 20 BILLION disposable diapers end up in landfills each year, which is quite shocking.
Disposable diapers are often put inside another plastic bag, which makes it even more difficult to bio-degrade. Add to that the fact that it will take approximately 500 years to decompose and the environmental impact is even more horrifying.
Greenhouse gases released from rotting waste is difficult to capture. In the Netherlands an industrial system is being developed whereby diapers can be composted and the methane that is released can be used for fuel. Local governments and manufacturers should and could do more to set up composting systems for bio waste, including nappies.
Research is also being done on manufacturing SAP from plant sources which will make it bio-degradable.
If you would like to explore the option of cloth diapers, then this is where you can find out more about reusable diapers.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below and I’ll get back to you.