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Published on April 28th, 2010 | by Jennifer Labit

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How much waste does a baby wearing disposable diapers really generate?

Cotton Babies has long been frustrated by the lack of information available about how each baby wearing disposable diapers impacts landfills.

We are working on a project to collect data about how much used disposable diapers weigh. The goal of this project is to estimate the approximate weight of the waste generated from a child wearing disposable diapers full time. 

To participate, please have your baby wear one disposable diaper for a normal length of time (as you define it). At the next diaper change, please weigh that disposable diaper.  You can submit the information about that diaper using this form:

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e2vcyg3lg8kjrgtb/start

After the data is collected and summarized, we will publish the results here on this blog for the benefit of the entire cloth diapering community.  Multiple submissions per family are welcome, but please sure that each submission reflects the information for one diaper only.  Thank you in advance for your participation and for telling your friends so they can help too!

Kindest regards,

Jennifer Labit, Owner
Cotton Babies, Inc.

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About the Author

Jenn is the founder of Cotton Babies & creator of bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum, worldwide leading cloth diaper brands. She has four children (Andrew, Oscar, Elsie and Louis) and holds an MBA from Washington University. When she's not working full time, she enjoys teaching business leaders how to implement sustainable economic & social change.



12 Responses to How much waste does a baby wearing disposable diapers really generate?

  1. DiaperLaurie says:

    Just wondering if the responses had been summarized yet? I am very curious as to the results…trying to find some averages weights on disposables diapers and its rather grim so far. Thanks!

  2. Anonymous says:

    yes, that is a large number, but we’re talking about 2% of all landfill waste. i wish people put as much effort into the other 98%. in my county, they burn the trash for energy, which is actually cleaner than a coal plant. i’d guess that my “landfill” waste ends up being a few grams of ash.
    i still like cloth diapers, though. :)

  3. Dreamer13 says:

    I’ll be very interested in the outcome of this! I started cloth diapering my daughter probably around month 2… cut down DRASTICALLY on our family’s garbage. Wow! Plus, since we got into cloth diapers, we started using some family cloth, less paper towels and tissues and napkins – we use cloth for almost everything! We love it!

    (I’d participate in the quest :), but I started ECing my daughter around 5 months old and she’s out of diapers already!! Woo!! (she’s 21 months, hasn’t worn diapers since 14 months – yay! :) )

    Anyway, I wanted to say, too, that I’ve passed on a blogging award to you! I don’t know if you’re “into” that – but come check it out if you want!! I like your blog and wanted to pass it on to my readers, too. http://curlyqshairdos.blogspot.com/2010/05/thank-you-sadie.html

  4. Liam & Karen says:

    I am not sure about weight, but I can tell you that since switching to cloth during the day(Econobums, I <3 them) and disposable at night I have noticed that the garbage generated by our family has been cut in HALF!

  5. Jenn says:

    @Magnolia Girl – a postal scale is the greatest.

    @Heather. Thanks for posting the gross numbers. I’m hoping we’ll get some interesting insight into the micro numbers at a baby level. One mom on Facebook had an aha moment:

    “Yikes that is eye opening! If my daughters diapers consistantly weighed that at every change it would be just over 2000 lbs of trash a YEAR just with her diapers. Then if they don’t train until 2.5, it would be about 5000 lbs of waste in her diaper days. Ready for this yeast to clear up so I can get her back in cloth :) This doesn’t include the packaging either that they come in.”

  6. The EPA has these numbers that might be helpful. From the Real Diaper Association’s WhataWaste site: “According to the EPA’s most recent municipal waste report (2008), 2.3% by weight of products discarded in the municipal waste stream are disposable diapers. That means that out of 166,740,000 tons or 333,480,000,000 pounds of trash, disposable diapers accounted for 3,790,000 tons or 7,580,000,000 pounds of non-recovered, toss-it-in-the-landfill trash in 2008.” Pretty disheartening, eh? Sooo glad there are so many people working to turn things around!!

  7. What kind of scale should I use? MIL always sends DS home in a sposie. I took it off him yesterday and put it on my scale but it wouldn’t register any weight.

  8. Jenn says:

    There are so many questions to be answered. :) I’m just trying to answer one right now. I’m sure that there are people who are much more qualified than I am who can address the question of water “trapped” in landfills inside diapers. It would certainly be an interesting question to answer (if it can even be answered).

  9. Lo says:

    I just deleted my comment because I said I never use cloth but I meant to say I never use Disposables, LOL anyway Im going to copy your blog post onto mine so maybe you can get some more responses :)

  10. Lo says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Carrie says:

    I know this isn’t exactly the question you’re looking into, but what about the moisture the diapers absorb as they sit in the trash or landfill? Is there really any way to get a sense of how much water is prevented from returning to the ground because it’s stuck in disposable diapers?

  12. Mom of FIVE says:

    One thing to note though is from my experience with the 3 children I did not cloth diaper is that a wet diaper does get lighter as the moisture, water content of the urine, evaporates. I remember wet diapers that may have sat on the changing table or something over night were not nearly as “wet” or heavy as it was when taken off the baby.

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