According to the National Association of Diaper Services, more than 18 billion single-use diapers go into the landfill each year and they can take up to 500 years to decompose. Then there’s the issue of the energy and materials that go into making the diapers and the byproducts of bleaching them. Add to that the worries about the chemicals we are exposing our babies to with many popular brands of disposable diapers, and you’ll begin to see the problem.
Luckily, there are a lot more green diaper options these days for parents who refuse to contribute more diaper waste to the landfills and want healthier products for their children. Green diaper choices range from cloth diapers to greener disposables to flushables — and even to skipping the diaper stage altogether.
One greener diaper option I had not seen until now is the truly compostable diaper. gDiapers is one brand that can be composted, but the company’s website warns to only compost the wet ones (not the dirty ones). The reason behind this is that garden compost does’t tend to get consistently hot enough to kill all the bacteria, including E. coli, and even viruses in human waste.
But some innovative folks in the Bay Area have solved the problem by creating a compostable diaper service. Earth Baby makes it easy to compost every part of the diapering process including the diaper (regardless of what’s in it), the wipe and even the diaper pail bag. By making this a service, they ensure that the diapers are composted at an industrial composting plant that does get hot enough to kill off bacteria and viruses.
The diapers used by Earth Baby are made in Sweden from corn-based plastic and wood pulp. The fact that they have to travel all this way to be used and then composted means that this is not the perfect solution. In fact, even a gDiapers spokesperson readily pointed out in an email that washing your own cloth diapers is still the greenest option. But the fact is that most parents still choose some type of disposable over cloth, and a professional compost service gives you most of the convenience of disposables without the heavy environmental impact.