Parents-to-be are bombarded on all sides with marketing about the “stuff” they must have for their impending arrival, much of it plastic based. Even if you can resist that pressure, the conventional baby necessities – in particular, disposable nappies and wipes – are plastic based, along with their packaging. Single use nappies comprise 2-3% of all household waste in the UK, and they are not currently recycled.
A new baby can be overwhelming, but it’s also a chance to establish simple habits and swaps that avoid all this single use. There are financial savings to be made too. And as we’re only just beginning to understand the health implications of the overuse of plastic in our society, keeping it to a minimum may also be a healthier choice for your baby.
Some disposable nappy brands are better than others: for example, those made with sustainable materials (eg bamboo – though this has its own environmental costs), or those which are biodegradable under certain conditions. But by far the best and easiest way to substantially reduce your household waste with a baby is to switch to reusable nappies. By the time your baby is potty trained, they would likely have been through 4000-6000 single use nappies, compared to 20-30 of the reusable equivalent!
Whether you’re a new parent or looking to make the transition to reusables for your child, there is a lot of support out there, including financial assistance. In Gloucestershire, the Real Nappy project offers samples, practical help with fitting and washing, and a £30 voucher towards the cost of buying your nappies.
As with nappies, there are more sustainable disposable brands, but a far better bet is to use reusable wipes, from brands like Cheeky Wipes. Plastic free blogger Jen Gale (Sustainable(ish)) has this great beginners guide to the world of reusable wipes. You can also make your own, from old flannels, tshirts or even socks, along with the solution to soak them in:
Bottles and other products
Finally, as this recent article in the Guardian explained, new research has shown that conventional baby bottles release millions of microplastic particles a day. The full health implications of this for babies are not yet known. However, there are glass, silicone and steel baby bottles on the market, so you may like to consider these if your baby is bottle fed.
Read more about plastic free living with a baby
Disposable nappies – what’s their environmental cost
WRAP: Real nappies overview
Independent: best reusable and eco friendly nappies
Gloucestershire Real Nappy project
Make your own cloth wipes and lotion
Greenpeace: 9 tips to reduce plastic and get sustainable in pregnancy and parenthood
Feature image credit: Gigin Krishnan, Unsplash