Many parents who are concerned about the environment are curious about diapering options. In addition to the purely disposable diapers which dominate the market, parents can utilize reusable cloth diapers or biodegradable diapers, which are designed to break down quickly after they are disposed of. A large number of companies manufacture diapers made from biodegradable materials for children from infancy to toddlerhood, and they are readily available in most parts of the world. If your local stores do not stock biodegradable diapers, you can find a retailer through your favorite search engine, or consider lobbying your store to start stocking them.
Purely disposable diapers are usually environmentally wasteful. They do not contain recycled material, but they do contain chemicals and polymers which take a long time to break down in a landfill. Although they are convenient, they are not terribly environmentally sound, and a child will use thousands of them before learning to use a toilet. Parents who want the convenience of a disposable diaper in a more healthy package might consider biodegradable diapers.
A biodegradable diaper is just as effective as a conventional one. However, it uses materials that are designed to break down quickly in the right environment, and is also usually made without chemicals and from postconsumer material. Many come in the form of a washable cloth outer layer with inserts that snap in: all are designed to be comfortable, ecologically sound, and easy to use. However, just using diapers made from biodegradable materials does not solve the problem of what to do with them in the end.
Throwing biodegradable diapers away sends them to the landfill, just like regular disposables, and they take longer to break down in the landfill than they would normally. For this reason, many companies have developed flushable biodegradable diapers, or recommend composting or vermicomposting their products to break them down quickly. The resulting compost should not be used on plants grown for food, but is suitable for flowers and other decorative plants. In some areas where commercial garbage collection includes composting, you may be able to discard diapers made from biodegradable materials in the compost, but you should check with the trash collection agency first.
Cloth diapers should also be considered: some parents use biodegradable diapers when they travel, and cloth ones at home. Cloth diapers do consume resources such as water for laundering, but are still viewed as a better environmental choice than traditional disposables or biodegradable diapers. By using unbleached cloth diapers and hypoallergenic detergents, you can also minimize the chemicals that your young child is exposed to, and keep his or her skin healthier and less irritated. When cloth diapers are not an option, biodegradable ones are a good second choice.