Monday, 24 November 2014

Can slow growth ever be good? #EWWR2014

My guest post on the Isonomia blog  stirred up a few questions.  I want to address the main one here, especially for European Week for Waste Reduction #EWWR2014:  the frustration waste officers have with the slow uptake of reusable nappies.  What waste and recycling managers love is quick wins and so, in their eyes recycling nappies is an attractive big risky spend whereas slow behavioural change of washables isn’t.  NB the latter certainly has lower carbon impacts and water use than the former.

However, those of us who have been working at the frontline of reusable nappies know that the slow uptake of reusable nappies has been a good thing.  We are doing R&D here.  There are products that have come to the market that have appeared great but actually have not been good over the long-term.  Poor products spread bad WOM and can hurt the real nappy industry.  It’s actually good to be working with a committed niche of consumers so that products are tried and tested before going mainstream.

And we've discovered something really important over the last decade: the habit of wrapping your baby's bottom in a nappy and forgetting about it until the next change is quite a recent habit.  The  toileting anthropologist in the French documentary ‘Couchorama’ calls it “hospitalisation."

What we've found out is that we don’t need superabsorbent, stay-dry nappies if babies are being ‘held out’ as they are in most parts of the world.  Did you know that this was happening in the UK until the 1950s? If you offer your baby the pot at change time you may find your baby uses it and the the next nappy stays clean and dry for longer.  Thus the nappies don’t have to be bulky and can be cleaned easily.  I have to admit when I first found out about parents doing this I thought it was WEIRD.  But I've gradually come round to realising it's the most natural and gentle way to deal with your baby's body waste and increases the contentment and well-being of both baby and carer.

It also reduces the need for single-use liners and makes washing nappies at over 40 ℉ totally unnecessary unless baby has an infection.  Plus 'holding out' also helps babies come out of nappies earlier.  This reduces overall nappy waste and also reduces the stress of "toilet-training" for parent and child and saves parents money - plus no need for introducing separate nappy waste collections and recycling/composting plants. 

Tell a mother, who has to walk 5 miles to collect clean water that we have clean running water on tap in our homes, washing machines and toilets but we choose to use single-use nappies and send the nappy waste to landfill, incineration, recycling, composting or whatever.  What would she say?  Why do we do it?

Long-term behavioural changes that reduce the need for nappies - period - has to be a better  solution than dealing with an ever-increasing volume of disposable nappy waste .  Please share this message this #EWWR2014 with all European local authorities and health professionals.

You may also want to check out this post for further information from the health professional's perspective:  Are potty training methods in the west ...

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