September 11, 2007

Hey, Nature Boy! Where You Planning On Biodegrading That Diaper?

nature_boy_diapers.jpgDT reader Tania was stoked to find some Nature Babycare diapers from Sweden at her local Target recently. Why? Because they're "100% Biodegradable!" Finally!

Nature Baby Care claims their disposable diapers are biodegradable as well as their wipes and entire line of products - even the packaging.
I bought a box of #5 diapers - Lovebug’s size. Their prices and sizing are the same as the big brands - I say the same because this company is in Sweden and started by Marlene Sandberg, a Swedish lawyer and mother of two boys.
So far I’ve used about half a dozen, and they’re great.
About a year ago I tried the flushable diapers and after being in denial for the two week run I flushed them for good. Sorry Mother Earth.
But now I can ease my guilt because Nature Baby Care’s Nappys are fantastic!
I'm glad they work, and I guess it's good to see an independent, parent-run company make good in an industry dominated by a couple of international giants. But after doing some research, I still have to call BS on the biodegradable thing, and especially the way Nature Babycare presents itself as THE "environmentally friendly nappy." Nature Babycare has some promising-sounding features, and Sandberg and her 8-year-old company are doing well by trying to improve the ecological impact of the disposable diaper business. But there's only so much improving that can be done within a deeply problematic industry. So don't let go of that guilt just yet.

First up, is Nature Babycare's claim of 100% biodegradability which, it turns out, applies only to the liner and plastic made from GM-free cornstarch. With the absorbing wood pulp [chlorine-free] and a channeling design that decreases the amount of non-biodegradable SAP [the absorbent crystal goo], Nature Babycare has gotten the overall biodegradable content of their diapers up to 70%, compared to a 30-40% ratio for plastic diapers like Huggies or Pampers. 7th Generation uses plastic, too, and almost every diaper maker uses SAP, though NB and gDiapers work to use less. [Tushies does not use SAP gel.]

The biggest question about biodegradability at all, though, depends on what happens to diapers after you throw them away, and in this regard, in the landfill-happy US of A, Nature Babycare is almost indistinguishable from the rest of the disposable diaper industry. American landfills just don't biodegrade anything; they bury it and seal it up in an anaerobic environment that prevents biodegradation. And with SAP and the presence of fecal matter, composting isn't an option, either.

Nature Babycare touts their less bulky design, which can decrease landfill contribution, and it can decrease the amount of fuel needed to incinerate trash [over half the waste in Sweden, is incinerated.] But in the end, a disposable diaper can't escape its inherent, environmentally suboptimal nature.

I have to say, I'm indebted to and blown away by the incredibly clear, exhaustive, and fascinating discussion of the "Green Diapers" issue put together by Katrien on MamaStories. It's really a must-read for anyone who takes a conscientious approach to the whole disposable issue. Most information out there is so tinged by marketing conflicts or emotional zeal, it's easy to tune out. But I found the simmering guilt that came from reading Katrien's post to be very enlightening and educational. Not that I know what we'll do with the next kid, of course, but still.

Nature Babycare diapers, aka Nature Boy & Girl, are available online at drugstore.com [drugstore.com]
Nature Babycare [naty.com]
thanks to Tania and her post, Biodegradable Disposable Diapers! [sic] [julianandco.com]
Green Diapers: SAP, biodegradability, chlorine, woodpulp [bolandbol.com]

32 Comments

One of the downsides to these diapers is that they suck- and I dont mean absorbency. We used them for a while, but we got frustrated with them and our daycare asked us to stop using them because they tore open all the time. I dont know if Drugstore.com had a bunch of bad batches or what , but it happened with alot of packs ona regular basis. Seems to me that the compostable (if it's just urine I guess) Little G inserts are a better option for the biodegradable thing...

[yeah, I forgot to mention that. The drugstore.com reviews are pretty polarized, there are a lot of people who like them, but way too many people who complain of the tearing thing. The most recent review sounds like it's fixed, but you have to wonder. -ed.]

Of course, you could always use cloth diapers . . .

With all of the options out there, and since we're living in the post-bleach-it-all era, they're not a bad choice.

Cloth would seem like a good option, but what are you going to sanitze them with in your home?? Are you going to bleach them? That would kind of defeat the reason for using cloth diapers in the first place becuse now you are introducing bleach into the waste water treatment plant that uses microbiotics to break down the waste thus killing them. Or are you lucky enough to live in an are that has a diaper service.

Are you going to spend thousands of dollars on a ozone sanitizing system?

We all want to do the right thing, but like the information that was pointed out, there is no way for the "biodegradable" diaper to degrade anyway.

Eric, for cloth diapers simply do a hot water wash in your clothes washer. If that freaks you out (really, it's not a big deal), use a diaper service.

There are flushable diaper liners (they look like toilet paper) you can use to extract and flush solid waste if you prefer. I don't know how eco-friendly they are, but they're thinner than flushable moist wipes (that really aren't too flushable and can clog your pipes if you're not careful).

You save gobs and gobs of money. If you can change a disposable diaper, you're man enough to handle cloth diapers. After the first week it's old hat.

Whoops, to answer your question Eric... no bleach. And in my experience (1 kid on pocket diapers for 2 years) staining wasn't an issue, so bleach wasn't needed for that, either.

Biodegradable diapers are just a way to take your money. We use a diaper service now which is really the way to go if one is available. Washing them ourselves ended up bringing our water bill over the cost of a diaper service so we went that way. With the diaper service there's not much difference in effort between disposable and cloth diapers.

My wife and I primarily use cloth for our kid. We also have one of those European washing machines (an Asko)which we didn't really like initially because it takes about two hours to run a load, but it heats its own water up to 205 degrees (most hot water tanks are set between 125 and 145) and uses about a quarter of the water a regular washer uses. We weren't thinking of diapers when we bought the machine, but the dang thing is like a diaper autoclave, and its hardly nudged our water bill.

I'm confused - there's a whole thing on the gDiapers site about how SAP is actually good for compost piles - that's why the pee g-diapers liners can be composted. Now you're saying that SAP can't be composted???

[the issue is that SAP does not biodegrade. Katrien quotes several statements by 7G. gDiapers use 1/3 the SAP of a 7G, and their SAP goes into sewage treatment plants and gets turned into fertilizer and spread on our nation's fields. But it does not biodegrade. It stays as is. There's apparently composting of some diapers and gDiapers, too, in AU, but no details. -ed.]

Before we had kids, we were discussing cloth versus disposable when an earth-friendly associate told people on both sides to lighten up because the only environmentally-sensitive choice is not to have kids.

The only diaper service that covers the Boston Metro area uses chlorine bleach. So, yeah.

WorkingDad is totally right, though. And even short of not having kids, there's a whole host of other issues that make a larger impact than the details of diapers.

Biodegradable anything, as you point out, is purely a feel-good exercise. The good thing about the gDiapers is at least the fecal matter ends up in the sewage treatment stream instead of being left sitting around for a couple weeks. (Does anyone know what happens to the leftover sewage treatment "solids"?) We also used a cloth service, but then you can find someone who tells you that washing cloth diapers uses millions of gallons of water, so who knows.

We've been using these NatureCare nappies for about six weeks now, and have no complaints with them.

However, as I compost all of the other organic waste from our house, does anyone know if these nappies are compostable? What about if they are in a 'biodegradable' nappy sack? Do you have to tear them up?

Any information would be helpful, as we've gone from having one to two binbags of rubbish a week to three or four since the arrival of the baby...

Greg, in view of your long term quest for decent, muppet-free diapers, I am completely shocked that you didn't mention whether these diapers have any sort of offensive designs on them. What gives?

[good point, it was actually hard to tell. The images on the website are UK and seem like they have non-character all-over patterns, though. If they were all white with a thin blue/yellow Swedish flag stripe around the waist, I'd be singing about them all day, even if they tore apart at the first fart. -ed.]

we've got a pack of the diapers. they are fine absorbency-wise, no leaks, etc. but the velcro tabs suck. they work fine on baby, but when you take them off and try to wrap them up and secure in a "package" with the tabs, they don't stick. the tabs only stick to the parts where they are when on baby, not the whole diaper.

You know, the arguments against cloth diapers, regarding wasting water, etc. are (in my opinion) just excuses to use disposables. I know because I've used those excuses. :D I switched to using FuzziBunz on my son as a sort of half-assed trial and couldn't believe how easy it was. Honestly, if more people used cloth so that everyone else could see how simple it is, there would be a lot less disposables sold. And there's no way that I can believe that running 2 or 3 small loads of laundry per week is the same or worse than throwing away bags and bags of feces-filled diapers. Not to mention what it takes to produce those disposable diapers, the packaging, the trucking required, etc. I'm so glad that I tried the cloth, because now I like them. I tried it, and now I like it. ;)

p.s. If anyone's interested, my "system" is a metal step-can and a nylon camping laundry bag with a piece of flannel stitched inside (I put a few drops of tea tree or orange oil on the flannel to cut down on odors). With a soiled diaper, I pull out the insert, toss the two pieces in the can, and forget about it until I run out of diapers. Then I toss the whole shebang, bag and all, in the machine on a cold rinse, then a hot/cold wash with Tide Free. Air-dry or tumble dry on low heat and that's it.

Hi Dad!
I'm glad you enjoyed my blog entry on green diapers and found it relevant. The investigation is on-going and there are still questions that I want answered (e.g., where does the Fluff pulp come from). So there will be a follow-up. I'll let you know!
Meantime, love your blog!

We just tried these diapers and they work great, as well as any disposables we've tried. We use cloth 90% of the time but use disposables overnight and on long car trips. These diapers fit the bill and are definitely a bit better for the earth than our usual .

[not really, but whatever makes you feel good. -ed.]

I just wanted to point out i think that there are two brands of diapers being confused here. One is Nature Boy and Girl, and the other is Nature Baby Care. They are two distinct brands.

I have tried Nature Boy and Girl and i do like them. I have only had the issue of tearing when i am uncareful when opening the diapers prior to putting them on my son. If i slow down a bit, there's no problem. They dont' tear while ON the baby, and he's a very active 18 month old.

Nature Baby Care is a brand i am about to try. The first package arrived the other day, and as soon as my son needs new disposables sent into daycare, i will be trying these out.

To clarify, Daddytypes *is* talking about Nature Baby Care diapers - not Nature Boy and Girl - only his picture is of the other brand. They *are* two different brands.

Just a note about composting or throwing away feces - Whether you use cloth or disposables, poop should ALWAYS go in the toilet and flushed to be handled by your wastewater treatment plant or septic tank. It's what's best for the environment and makes the diaper pail a little less smelly.

Regarding the "[not really, but whatever makes you feel good. -ed.]" in response to the post on Oct. 8, 2007:

OK, so biodegradable factor aside since it's going to a landfill where it won't really biodegrade anyway, the Nature babycare diapers have to be a little bit better than regular diapers, right? Less chlorine and less plastic in the production of the diaper has to be a good thing.

And yes, cloth is probably best in areas of the world that have an adequate supply of clean water. I live in the northeast and thus do not feel one ounce of guilt for running a few extra loads of laundry...

We just started using nature babycare and we really like them.
We are just confused about whether we can compost them.
Are they 70% compostable or 100% biodegradable?
We have street side pick up for our compost so compostable would be great.
We used fuzzi bunz for about 6 months but got fed up with the constant yeast rash that kept recurring.
Any info on how compostable nature babycare diapers really are and/or how to rid yeast from fuzzi bunz would be greatly appreciated.

so how do you clean the liners for the pocket diapers? I used a pocket diaper for a few months until my husband told me I had to stop. The smell of the peed on liner was enough to make you faint.

So are Nature Babycare compostable or not????????????????????

That's the whole pitch of Nature Babycare: that they're compostable, including the ink and the packaging. throw some in and try them, I guess.

I have to say that these are by far the best diapers that we have used to date. We have tried G Diapers, Huggies and Pampers, just for the comparison and nothing even comes close to Nature Babycare.
Every other type leaked multiple times and ruined multiple outfits. We are on our 4th pack and have yet to stain one outfit. This is not due to small messes; we had one that you swore it was the same as a half a pot of soup! I could not believe it! The diaper was filled to the brim and HELD!
I have read the last comment about the ripping, but I honestly believe that they are in constant upgrading to parents comments.
I am a true supporter, that is why I added them to my site:

Jeff Philip
www.ECOrganics.ca

I am so happy to be able to read other views on the Nature Babycare diapers. My son was in the g diaper system for almost 6 months. He broke out in the ugliest yeast diaper infection I have ever seen. We tried every medication (two months) until finally changing diapers. After two days his infection was clear...needless to say we can not back to the gdiaper. I have tried 7G and Earth's Best. Both leave him sopping wet by morning. I am tired of changing the sheets every day. I plan on using the Nature Babycare diapers tonight and keeping my fingers crossed no sheet or pajama changing needs to occur. I did buy a pack of the Nature Babycare yesterday, but realized that I need to size up to a 3. Seems that the diapers run a little small. Hoping they work!! If anyone has had a similar situation happen with gdiaper (causing yeast infection) I would be really interested in hearing from you.

We use Nature BabyCare nappies (diapers). One each night, and it is a great option, I like using them, and empty them into the compost - I've heard also that the gel in them is the same as the water retaining crystals used in garden centres, and that the urea speeds composting and is also a fertilizer.

Poops we strive to catch in the potty as we practice elimination communication, pottying our baby in combination with cloth training pants during the day and our one eco-disposable each night.

It gives me the best eco-karma I can manage with my budget, too.

Whatever we can do to reduce our environmental footprints by educating ourselves as critical consumers is good.

The next step for eco-conscious parents is to consider incorporating a little Baby Pottying - The Elimination Communication method is an ancient way to gradually reduce your use of diapers, one at a time.

May I offer a link to my resources helping families ease into EC part-time? I am really enthusiastic about helping families ease into baby pottying as a way to reduce diaper washing and waste.

I have put together a free introductory series of emails - a guided tour about the best attitudes to adopt when beginning EC. It’s very popular, with over 880 members as of today.

Here is a link:
http://www.parttimediaperfree.com/
http://www.parttimediaperfree.com/Modern-Cloth-Diapers.htm

Thanks,
Charndra

For folks living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a company called Earth Baby that sells (and delivers) the Nature Babycare diapers and wipes, then picks up the used ones once a week and composts them for use on golf courses, etc. You can't compost these in your home compost pile due to the very high temperatures required to compost human waste, but their facility is set up to maintain the composting environment necessary.

My family uses this service and it's great. If we were just going to throw them in the trash, I think we'd use Huggies/Pampers instead.

I'm pretty sure that Nature Boy and Girl is simply an older name for Nature Babycare.

I have 3 kids, and I started using Nature BabyCare diapers with the first. I used them exclusively for about 2 years. Yes, they do occasionally tear, when kid is just in diaper and no clothes. Yes, the tabs don't restick onto dirty diaper (although the later batches I got I think did). But all in all, they were as reliable or more than the other big brands. I probably tried every brand out there and Pampers leaked and Huggies leaked on not even close to full diapers, when this and all other ecofriendly diaper didn't. The only reason I have stopped using them is cost. After having two babies in a row and not working almost 9 months between the two, I had to start pinching pennies. That meant going back to the other brands. And with 3 kids under the age of 4, two still in diapers, 1 not walking, and going back to work, I have no time for frequent changes and washing of cloth diapers. Maybe when kid #2 is out of diapes I'll try being kinder to the earth.

Do you have any video of that? I'd love to find out some additional information.

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