This time 10 years ago, I was newly married with no children (yet). I always prided myself on being a good recycler, and my hatred of littering resulted in me stalking following fly-tippers many a time. I was involved in local clean up days where we gathered together and collected up every piece of litter we could find. But really my environmental awareness stopped there. Roll on 10 years and now i'm a busy mum of 3, with an eco sustainable store specialising in all sorts of zero waste and ethical products including cloth nappies. What happened along the way? Where did I change?
About 9 years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby I recall my mum mentioning traditional terry cloth nappies. It was brief, and probably not terribly positive (words like soaking/boiling/pins etc were involved) and honestly it wasnt even considered by me as an option for even a second. I happily used disposable nappies on my first baby totally oblivious to the legacy of single use nappies. While in recent years pay by waste bin charges have been a hot topic (met with much resistance nationwide!) they have actually already been in force with a small number of County Councils for many years. Our own local Counts Council (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown) was one of those early starters.
As an avid recycler, my black bin was very rarely used. We have dogs that would always clean up the food scraps, so there was little going in the black bin. Until we had a baby. Almost immediately we noticed the bin was heavier, filled faster, and was mostly filled with disposable nappies. We suffered on for a while, just accepting that it was just one of those things. Until the bills kept coming in and they started really adding up. We were paying annually to have the bin (this wasn't optional) we also had to pay per lift of the bin, and then 20 cent per kilo for the weight of the bin.
I decided to do some research on alternative methods of disposing of nappies to reduce this cost. I'm not entirely sure what I was hoping to find on Google. Maybe some sort of safe home incinerator? Or a home composer that could deal with disposable nappies? It was then that I realised. The nappies that I was going through in multiples each day were actually going to be on this earth about 400 years longer than me. I can honestly say I had never heard about that before. I was absolutely horrified. I briefly reconsidered the traditional terry nappies my mum had mentioned. But to my surprise, Google revealed these absolutely gorgeous modern cloth nappies that looked easy to use. No scary pins!
I ordered some modern cloth nappies (I think my first were a 3 pack of Charlie Banana pocket nappies) and straight away I was hooked.
My husband was a little more reluctant for me to invest on a full stash of cloth nappies. But as he is an accountant, I knew he was really just interested in the figures. I weighed a wet nappy (I cheated a little, I used a first thing in the morning nappy, so the heaviest!) and it was 300g. So with our pay by weight bin charge of 20 cent per kilo, this nappy was going to cost 6 cent to dispose of. This didn't include the life charge, and if half the bin was filled with nappies, that would be double the amount of lift charges each year.
Within a very short space of time, the huge reduction in our bin charges were very obvious. The charges were instantly halved with the lighter bins and the less frequent collections. And do you know what? There wasn't much more work involved. It resulted in the washing machine going 2 or 3 extra times per week, which was only really pressing a button on my behalf.
Cloth nappies were like the catyst. Suddenly I was using cloth baby wipes, reusable breast pads, and even, dare I say it, considering cloth sanitary pads. The small but important changes just kept coming. Roll on a few years and I don't dismiss any idea now when it comes to minimal waste and efforts to reduce our waste impact on the planet. After all there is no Planet B!