Eco Insights: The Diaper Dilemna

3 Mins Read

Aren’t those Pampers commercials cute? Who doesn’t love the image of a cherubic baby toddling around in nothing but diapers with colourful little rainbows all over them? Only a monster wouldn’t get all warm and fuzzy when presented with a depiction of all that is innocent and magical about babies. What could possibly be wrong with diapers? Well, as it turns out, a whole stinkin’ lot (first pun, get ready).  Read on below to find out why the world needs a complete diaper rethink.


Super UN-Sustainable

Obviously the first problem is that diapers are disposable. And babies need a ton of diapers. Up to 10, 000 before they can relieve themselves. Multiply that by the number of babies on the planet. And by the weight of a diaper. Suddenly you end up with vivid images of an incredibly intimidating mound of trash that’s headed straight for the landfill. Anything non-reusable that is required in large volumes is NOT sustainable and we need to find an alternative solution.


Poopooing Plastics (no pun intended)

Disposable diapers are made of plastic. Not sure how some product developer managed to convince moms everywhere that wrapping their little treasure in plastic was a great idea. You know when you wear a disposable raincoat at an outdoor concert? And you end up feeling really sweaty and itchy? This is what a diaper is doing to your little darling’s baby’s backside. Not to mention that diapers are made with many toxic ingredients, which brings us to the next issue.


Chemical Pamper-Load

Diapers contain many chemicals, some of which are still being tested for adverse health effects. The most dangerous to your child (that we currently know about, expect more to come out of the woodworks in years ahead) are the following:

  • -Dioxin, which is a proven carcinogenic (#1 on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s list of cancer causing substances); used as part of the bleaching process of the paper products contained in diapers
  • -Tributyl Tin aka TBT which is linked to hormonal disruption (which can lead to sterility for boys)
  • -Sodium Polyacrylate , which provides the absorption that is heavily advertised to keep your baby ‘dry’ for hours and is noted for causing skin allergies, rashes and other irritations and is the same ingredient banned in Tampons because it causes Toxic Shock Syndrome. 

There are dozens more chemicals that are associated with diapers that parents need to worry about and a whole book could be filled with the list but the above are the most worrisome. 


Contamination Abomination

Finally we end up with the very basic problem of poo. Disposable diapers contain fecal waste. While you may not mind your baby’s poo, when feces are left to rot in trashcans, dumpsters and landfills, they a) stay there pretty much indefinitely or for a good few hundred years at least, as the plastic shell prevents them from biodegrading and b) they mix with the chemicals in the plastic and paper and cause toxic waste which then seeps into our soil and groundwater and cause even more damage to our health and the planet.


Bottom Line (couldn’t resist)

We need to stop using these toxic, plastic stop-gaps and immediately switch to reusable, chemical-free diaper alternatives made from organic, biodegradable materials. 


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software. In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.

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