Real Nappy Week – April 23rd to 29th

by Alex Pitt

There are many reasons why we should be using real nappies (cloth diapers) as opposed to disposables. But many of us prefer the convenience of the latter, myself included. In the UK from 23rd – 29th April it’s Real Nappy Week 2001 and councils and hospitals are starting initiatives to encourage local residents to try real nappies for their babies and toddlers.

If you’ve considered using cloth nappies before but been put off now is a good time to find out about the facts about disposable and real nappies. How much effect do disposables have on the environment, compared to traditional nappies? Which ones are better for your baby’s health? What kinds or cloth nappies are now available? What are nappy laundering services? Which is cheaper and are disposables really that much more convenient?

The Real Nappy Project established Real Nappy Week last year to raise awareness of reusable modern cloth fitted nappies, terry nappies and laundry services, so that parents had real alternatives to disposables. It’s the first scheme to be fully funded by Biffaward with money raised from Landfill Tax. Since Real Nappy Week 2,000 the number of affiliated local groups has doubled. Gina Purrman founder of the Real Nappy Association says ‘Six years ago, I was a lone voice promoting the benefits of real nappies. Now, we have a full scale operation. Local groups which have been set up all around the UK have also benefited from Biffaward funding in the form of training at our recent workshops.”

Over 80 Local Authorities are now actively promoting real nappies as part of their waste minimisation strategy. To support Real Nappy Week councils have many activities planned. In West Sussex, the award winning team of West Sussex County Council and Cotton Bottoms laundry service is launching trials of real nappies in three nurseries in the county. Cotton Bottoms have also initiated schemes with 14 other councils in Southern England and is in contact with 10 hospitals. Some councils such as Essex County Council are offering money back vouchers to those purchasing real nappies or using laundry services.

The Three Counties Real Nappy Network made up of Hertfordshire, Bedforshire and Cambridgeshire county councils have a Waste Aware scheme which encourages residents to ‘think before we buy and think before we bin’. Funded by the Landfill Tax, it has enabled them to purchase leaflets and display boards promoting the use of real nappies in town centres and shows. And in many other areas information sheets and leaflets are being given out in maternity wards in hospitals, GPs surgeries and health centres. They are also be available from National Childbirth Trust groups, health visitors, midwives and in libraries.
In Richmond £2,500 worth of real nappies will be available for parents to trial and Shepway District Council has a real nappy promotion in the Early Years Centre with money off incentives to new parents intending to use real nappies. Whilst Peterborough Real Nappy Network is promoting real nappies at ‘waddling to toddling’ groups, where they give toddlers dolls to dress in nappies while mums check out the real nappies on display. Some councils are running competitions to win sets of real nappies or in conjunction with local nappy laundry services. Kent County Council is having a fun splash for babies at a local swimming pool and has a prize of a free supply of nappies or laundry service for one year.

The Real Nappy Association has written to the Chief Executives of all NHS Trusts calling on them to support Real Nappy Week and to adopt a real nappy policy. Hospitals like Chichester and Lister who now use real nappies in their neo-natal, maternity and paediatric wards have been able to save costs and control waste more effectively. And of course they encourage new mothers to consider the alternatives to disposables.

This week a basket of cloth nappies will be presented to Yvette Cooper, Undersecretary for Public Health to enable her to make an informed choice when she is choosing nappies for her baby. Paul Burstow MP has proposed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons in support of Real Nappy Week 2001 which has received cross party support which `notes that disposable nappies give rise to over a million tonnes of household waste every year, costing £40 million; recognises the benefits of local authority partnerships and promotions which can prevent waste; supports Real Nappy Week, 23 – 29 April, which aims to give parents a fair choice of modern washable nappies and nappy laundries; and calls upon the Department of Health to ensure that a fair choice is available in maternity wards and through health professionals and to consider adopting a real nappy policy.’

Further details of Real Nappy Week 2001 activities around the country and a full list of supporters can be seen on the website

Also visit Natural Parenting UK’s Nappy Debate Page!