Real nappies - Overview

Real nappies can offer a more sustainable alternative to disposable nappies depending on how they are used.

In this section you will find out about real nappies and key things to consider when planning a campaign such as barriers, incentives and partnership working.

Key points

  • The UK disposes of around 3 billion disposable nappies each year, representing an estimated 2% to 3% of all household waste.
  • By the time one baby is potty trained the baby could use 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies. In comparison, a baby only needs around 20 to 30 modern real nappies and these can also be used by any siblings that come along. 
  • Although real nappies cost a few pounds each initially and need to be laundered, real nappies can save parents around £200 to £500 over 2.5 years for their first baby and even more if re-used for subsequent children. 

Real Nappies

The Go Real website provides a range of information and advice for families considering switching to real nappies. Advice and information includes:

The website also includes a Nappy Finder which lists all trial kits, council schemes, laundries and other nappy services. Go Real also offers a local authority membership package which includes support and advice which can be tailored to the local authority. 

Impacts

Life cycle studies comparing disposable and reusable nappies have identified that that most of the environmental impacts associated with disposables are in their manufacture (i.e. parents tend to have limited control/awareness over them when buying), whereas reusable nappies impacts depend on:

  • consumers’ behaviour
  • how they are laundered and dried
  • whether they are passed on for use by other children. 

By switching from disposables to reusable nappies families can significantly reduce their household waste. It is estimated that by using real nappies, the average household waste of families with babies can be halved, avoiding an average 750kg/hh/yr. This waste reduction will have associated cost savings for the local authority.