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Disposable is not an option

I am writing this article during Plastic-free July. I feel excited that this initiative will spark some of the much needed eco conversations in our society. Fortunately, it’s not ‘too hippie’ for the mainstream person to purchase stainless steel drinking straws or bring their own coffee/drinking water/homemade soup in a reusable bottle/flask to work or on an outing. These are IMPORTANT steps! It’s not just about sorting out our weekly waste for the recycling – it’s about taking some proactive steps at reducing single use plastic in our homes. What once might have been considered weird and way out there, is slowly getting accepted in the wider society.

Sadly, though, the word ‘slowly’ is still in our reality. Looking at the state of our beautiful Earth, there doesn’t seem to be time to take it slowly. We only have the present to take action.

And this brings me to the real topic – DISPOSABLE IS NO LONGER ACCEPTED!

Water bottles and drinking straws – that’s all good.

However, the real elephants in the room are the hygiene products, i.e. nappies and menstrual products. Yes, you can buy the more expensive disposable versions which get labelled as eco-friendly and biodegradable. Are they, though? At the end of the day all disposable products, biodegradable or not, will end up in the landfill. And the fact is that even the petrochemical-based ones will degrade… eventually… after some 300 years or so…

A few years ago I spoke to a lady who had been researching biodegradable nappies for her thesis. I already suspected what findings she would share with me. Indeed, the biodegradable nappies didn’t do much better when compared to the conventional disposables.

It requires moisture and a lot of heat for the natural materials to break down in nature. In our part of the world, we do have the humidity but not the heat element. The same goes for any kind of home compostable food wrapper. Unless you provide a lot of heat, the wrapper will stay intact for years. You can do your own experiment. I have tried a few wrappers in my own composting bin. Being black and plastic it gets extremely hot in summer – and yet, the wrappers are still there…

Sadly, this is called ‘green wash’ and is very common in our society. People are led to believe they are making a positive difference when, in fact, nothing much is changing.

Whether we want to hear it or not, there are more than 8 million disposable nappies being thrown in the landfill EVERY SINGLE DAY in the UK alone! Where are the media to cover this environmental disaster, I wonder?

Recently, DEFRA government research completed their 2023 report on the life cycle of disposable and reusable nappies and their impact on the environment.

They concluded that the manufacturing of reusable nappies has over 90% lower environmental impact than manufacturing of disposables.

And even when washed and dried (even tumble-dried) time and time again, washable nappies are far the best choice for the environment. And, of course, if they can be passed down to another child (or two), washable nappies become even better for the environment.

I have always said that having children doesn't have to cost the Earth. This information should be shouted from the rooftops – every family should be encouraged to use washable nappies! And by ‘encouraged’ I mean that there should be a financial help from the government – not just the £30 voucher which will buy you a couple of pairs of decent nappy pants…

And when talking about £££, very recently I read an interesting article on the Nappy Lady blog. To my knowledge this is the first time somebody finally sat down to look at the actual costs involved in reusable vs. disposable nappies and their single use. Many people are concerned about the rising costs of living.

Well, it turns out you can save a lot by choosing reusable instead of disposable, depending on what system you are using. The good old-fashioned terries (big squares that require a little skill when it comes to folding them) are the very cheapest – you may remember them from your own childhood.

Some modern washable nappies look and are as easy to use as the disposable kind (these are perfect for busy childcare places where they normally don’t accept cloth nappies because of time constraints) – the only difference being that you wash and dry them. These cost a lot more – pretty much the same amount of ££ as the disposable ones.

Whichever nappy system you choose (you can also mix and match them and have different types to suit your different needs – like I did), you are still saving some 8,000 nappies from the landfill! (It is estimated that a baby will go through about 8,000 nappies till fully potty trained.) To catch any solids and keep the moisture away from your baby’s skin, you have the option of using a disposable biodegradable nappy liner (usually made with cornstarch). If you choose washable fleece or silk liners, then there is absolutely no waste from your baby – other than the one you flush down the toilet.

The other elephant in the room we need to talk about are women’s menstrual products. It doesn’t take a genius mathematician to figure out just how MANY products each woman may need in her life – say from the age of 12 to 50… If you ever took part in a beach clean-up, you will know the things found washed out on the shore are usually nappies and pads, sadly...

Again, like with the nappies, pads made of natural materials are better for our bodies and if we absolutely have to use a disposable product, they are a more reasonable option. However, remember what I said earlier – it’s the green wash. There is no disposable option which is REALLY good for our Earth.


Reusable menstrual products are often a bit pricey to begin with, yet they will last for years and years. Nowadays, we have menstrual cups and pads, tampons and sea sponges, even period pants. If you never tried them – period pants are a total game changer.

All the washable products can be rinsed and stored, ready for a wash. They should be washed every 2-3 days. You can also soak them in a little water. This soaking water will be your miraculous plant fertilizer for both, indoors and outdoors plants. So here you have it, just another little tip how to buy less plastic packaged things – no more need for liquid fertilizers, either. If you think it’s something unhygienic or unclean – let me ask you one thing: what would have happened with all that precious life-giving liquid of yours? Indeed, it would have grown a new life! If not human life then surely plant life.


Just like with the cloth nappies, it takes a little planning and organising, especially if the woman is often away. We have to realise that anything we are not used to will take some effort to begin with. In our fast paced, busy busy society where we are used to instant, convenient and readily available, having to plan around washing days and how to have enough reusable products for when away from home, will certainly challenge our old habits.

I believe it’s not the politicians, governments, authorities or whoever else who can help us. It’s EVERY individual person who chooses to be proactive – one step at a time – by buying less, by walking more, by avoiding unnecessary packaging, by reducing waste, by changing our outdated habits.

And let me tell you, at the end of the day, when you see all the nappies or pads, colourful and clean in the sun, happily drying in the breeze, you will experience an immense feeling of satisfaction. YOU are the change maker! YOU have actively chosen to make a difference to the Earth – not just for yourself, but for the whole natural world, for your children and all the future children who will come to our planet one day. It may seem like a small, pretty insignificant step. And yet, if every woman took these steps every month, every year, worldwide, can you imagine the precious CHANGE we would achieve?

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