Back in 2011 when my daughter was born, cloth nappies never once entered my mind. I was far too wrapped up in everything else that was going on to worry about that extra load of washing I would have to do, and as far as I was concerned at the time the effect on the environment was negligible. An extra wash and potential tumble dry a day versus a bin full of dirty nappies which one emptied each week was out of sight out of mind. I was also deterred by the fact some children cried as soon as their child wet in their cloth nappy and then needed a change, five times in the space of an hour?! Surely that much washing is not good for the environment in any case?!
Pregnant with number 2, my eldest showing no sign of potty training soon, and resigned to the fact I would have two under two in nappies, during a discussion over those vital items you need when baby arrives, my clothaholic friend was talking about her cloth nappies and reusable wipes. It was then that I began to realize how ill informed I was about cloth nappies. Now they’re not for everyone, granted, and at the end of the day when you open that stinking bucket of teethy poo nappies (you know the ones I mean!) there are days when you think ‘why am I doing this?!!’ To cut a long story short the husband and I did some sums. Based on the approximate cost of two large packets of supermarket own brand disposable nappies at £5 a packet, in two different sizes (around 40 nappies per week) and our eldest potty training in around 6 months time, we came up with a grand nappy spend total of £930 over a nappy bottomed lifetime. Yikes!
And then there’s disposal. It all has to go into landfill. A dry nappy weighs approximately 45g but at capacity a nappy can hold a whopping 500ml of liquid (note I tested this with water and not a used nappy!). So let us say our full nappy weighs 500g. Not all nappies will reach this capacity by any means so, would it be fair to say across the approximate 8 nappies per child per day there is 2kg of waste? For me this is 4kg a day, for 6 months and another 2kg for 6 months…(4x7x26)+(2x7x26)= 1092kg for the first year. Over a tonne for the year. Blimey. That’s a lot of money we were basically throwing away – as tax payers I mean. With this in mind we started looking into cloth alternatives.
Now there is an immense amount of choice when it comes to cloth, with very variable prices too. Some nappies cost around £20 a piece! Disposables not looking so bad after all. But there’s more to it than that. So what else is involved with cloth? Well as well as the investment in the product and extra time involved there is of course the washing! Want the laundry sums?!? (I can’t hear you shouting!!!) You do?! well here they are! All based on one child, annually!
I wash mine in a 7kg, A++ washer approximately 3 times per week on a 40 degree cycle. The annual consumption of my machine is claimed to use 194kWh and 10,000l annually, for 204 washes per year… around 4 a week. So if I take ¾ of these figures it gives me the figures I use for washing the nappies – 145.5kWh and 7500l. I currently pay 12.78p per unit of electricity, and 116.9p/m3 for delivery of water and 219.8p/m3 sewerage. Although not all of the water which is delivered to the machine will go to the sewer, the amount is negligible, so for the purpose of this exercise we will keep it the same. Total cost in energy and water = £43.78 annually… still only the cost of a months worth of nappies.
I have no tumble dryer so didn’t need to worry about associated drying costs, but some of your lucky people will have. Tumble dryers vary considerably between an annual consumption of 200kWh to 600kWh, so running costs of between £25 and £75 annually. The drying time will also depend on the type of nappy you are drying and of course who supplies your energy and what your unit charge is! But even at a maximum spend of £75 per annum, it’s a drop in the ocean!
Nappies only require washing in detergent, the cost of which varies considerably. The amount you will need to use is also variable dependent on the type of water you have. We live in a hard water area so the amount I need to use is higher than someone in a softer water area. I use an own brand detergent at around £2 which give me 21 washes…at 3 washes a week that’s 156 per year, 7.5 bottles of detergent, a total of £15 annually.
So after your initial nappy investment, you can spend an absolute maximum of say £150 on washing and drying and have no waste at all, versus £300+ of disposable nappies paraphernalia and a tonne of waste. With two children and at least another two years of nappy use ahead of me I knew the best way for me was the cloth way.
Of course everyone’s costs will be different – this is my example but others may vary greatly. And it’s worth doing a little bit of groundwork before investing that’s for sure. But manage it right and you may be pleasantly surprised! See my nappy test drives if you want to know more.
The Waste Not Want Not Bottom Line
|Energy Cost||£70-125 per year||0|
|Disposal Cost||30 x nappies and wraps||1 tonne of landfill tax|