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The Environmental Impact: Linking Disposable Nappies to Deforestation

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  • Bambino Mio
  • Planet
  • 09 / 06 / 2023

Discover the link between disposable nappies and deforestation and find out more about the impact of deforestation on the environment. You can also find out about eco-friendly alternatives to disposable nappies.

Disposable nappies and deforestation

You’re probably already aware of the environmental impact of nappies due to their plastic components, which can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Many of us are on a drive to eliminate single-use plastics from our lives, with reusable nappies being a great way to make a difference, but reusable nappies are also a great way to show your love for the trees.

Disposable nappies cost the UK 7,000,000 trees a year

That’s right, seven million trees! Each year. These trees are felled and turned into the pulp which, together with super-absorbent polymers like sodium polyacrylate, form the business part of a single-use nappy - the part that soaks up and holds your baby’s wee.

The UK has a total of around 3 billion trees, according to the UN’s Plant for the Planet project, so losing 7 million of them each year might seem insignificant.

We can’t afford to lose more trees

However, the UK is already suffering from deforestation and deforestation isn’t just bad news for the trees, it’s bad news for the environment as a whole.

Deforestation is a major contributor to global warming, adding as much as 20% of our greenhouse gases to the air. Trees act as carbon sinks, absorbing CO2 from the air, so when one is felled, 

the carbon it’s stored over its life is eventually released back into the atmosphere.

The wider environmental impacts of deforestation

Deforestation doesn’t just mean fewer shady trees for us to hide under on hot days, it has far-reaching - and very unfortunate - impacts on the environment.

Deforestation increases soil erosion

Tree roots help to stabilise soil by, essentially, grasping it and holding it in place. Cutting down and removing trees loosens soil so it’s vulnerable to rain and wind, leaving areas with no fertile topsoil.

Deforestation increases flood risks

Trees also help to control flooding - their roots keep hold of absorbent soil which can soak up heavy rain. Most importantly, though, the trees themselves suck up a lot of water. Mature oaks, for example, can “drink” up to 700 litres of water a day, with most of this water being transpired out into the air.

Trees help to prevent acidic oceans

The oceans will naturally absorb some CO2 from their air, which will make the water slightly acidic and this is usually not a problem. However, if there’s more CO2 in the air, the water will absorb more and become more acidic, which upsets the natural balance of the oceans and endangers its inhabitants.

Trees support a huge range of wildlife 

From tiny insects to birds and sloths, trees and forests are home to hundreds of thousands of different species, with some being so specialised they can only live on one type of tree. No trees means no homes, which can mean severe endangerment or extinction for thousands of different species.

Save the trees by choosing reusable nappies

By choosing reusable nappies you’re reducing the need for wood pulp in the (roughly) 5,000 disposable nappies that your baby will get through by the time they’re toilet trained.

Reusable nappies like Bambino Mio’s Revolutionary Reusable Nappy use natural fibres like cotton and bamboo and you simply wash and dry them over and over again.

Using reusable nappies can reduce your carbon footprint by 36% compared to disposables and you’re also using less than 2.5% of the raw materials involved in those 5,000 disposables.

FAQs about using reusable nappies

Are reusable nappies suitable for newborn babies?

Yes. Most modern cloth nappies are suitable for babies weighing 3.5kg to 4kg and you can use extra inserts or boosters to ensure a better fit for smaller babies. 

I’ve heard of biodegradable disposable nappies - are they a good alternative? 

Not necessarily. Eco-disposables might use absorbent pads made from sustainable materials such as bamboo, but they still use plastic outer layers which won’t decompose for hundreds of years. In addition to this, biodegradable nappies need very specific composting conditions to decompose. 

Does washing and drying reusable nappies emit a lot of carbon?

Modern day washing machines can clean reusable nappies at just 40C so there’s no need for expensive hot washes and if you line or air dry your nappies, you’ll reduce your impact even more.