• Joe Garms

Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers

Parents find themselves in a quandary when deciding between cloth and recyclable diapers because both affect the environment negatively, but in different ways.


Disposable diapers offer convenience, but require more raw materials, water and energy to manufacture than cloth diapers. Besides depleting natural resources, manufacturing disposable diapers utilizes non-renewable energy sources. They generate landfill solid waste that can take a long time to degrade and can pose risks to the environment. The inner absorbent layer of a disposable diaper is treated with chemicals, which can create health problems if released into the environment.

Some parents prefer chlorine-free disposable diapers to cut down on chemicals released into the environment.


According to the EPA, ”Disposable diapers fall under the category of municipal solid waste, which means the material is safe to be disposed of in a U.S. municipal solid waste landfill.”

As a group Pediatricians do not caution parents against using disposable diapers and report no health problems related to their use.

Some parents are convinced that cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly and buy organic cotton diapers that use no pesticides during growth. The cost of cloth diapers is up front but lower than disposables. But cloth diapers use large amounts of water for washing and electricity for drying. When used, commercial diaper service delivery trucks consume fuel and create air pollution.

The American Academy of Pediatrics takes no position on cloth vs. disposable diapers. There is no consensus among Pediatricians on whether disposable or cloth diapers are best for reducing risk of diaper rash.

However, frequently changing both cloth and disposable diapers can prevent diaper rash.

Parents can take the middle ground and go green by buying flushable hybrid diapers. The soiled, biodegradable liner is flushed down the toilet into the sewage system, rather than sending it to the landfill. Parents can then insert a new liner into the reusable cloth pants.

After weighing the pros and cons of cloth and disposable diapers, including health and environmental issues, parents are left to choose according to their values.

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