Okay, how does that make us feel at Nappy Ever After? The main problem is that they didn’t talk to us. We know this area. We started out trying to reduce London’s nappy waste by working with them first. We thought we were collaborating on this.
But to be fair to LB Camden, there’s a plan to open a Knowaste nappy recycling plant in West London and this is an opportunity to increase recycling rates, something they are struggling with. Not only this, since LB Camden introduced ‘Mix it up’ to make recycling easier they’ve had a big unforeseen problem; residents have been putting nappy waste in the recycling, thinking it is recyclable (not unreasonable as many ‘disposable’ nappies say they’re recyclable on the packet.) The problem is that nappy waste contaminates all the recycling in that bin (some of it is huge on-street recycling bins shared by many residents) and has to go to incineration – reducing Camden’s recycling rates. The advantage of piloting nappy recycling is that hopefully it will get coverage in the media and win exposure for this issue.
Secondly, LB Camden is legally obliged to explore all ways to shift waste up the hierarchy. Recycling nappy waste would appear to be better environmentally than incineration, which is what currently happens to Camden’s nappy waste, although it’s controversial. A Knowaste plant in the Netherlands was closed down as they couldn’t make it work. I’ve written about why here.
So what should Camden do about nappy waste? Clearly we don’t want to incinerate or landfill nappy waste in the UK. But is washing nappies the solution? The consensus now, coming from Scandanavia, is that it’s very difficult to scientifically prove any appreciable environmental advantage between cloth nappies and single-use nappies. But there is a factor that does make a very clear environmental difference: the length of time a child spends in nappies. What’s undeniable is, that since disposable nappies became the norm, children have potty-trained later and later. Therefore the best way to reduce nappy waste, possibly by as much as 50%, is to give parents better information about when and how to potty train. Nappy Ever After is calling for this as the next step in reducing nappy waste. We believe this will be far more cost-effective than any other investment in reducing nappy waste. There are also health issues connected with delayed potty training such as chronic constipation. For more information please visit www.eric.org.uk. Getting children out of nappies earlier is also a great way to save households with young families money, a significant anti-poverty issue.
I guess my main point, from the perspective of being a Camden resident (Nappy Ever After is no longer based in Camden, but continues to serve Camden residents) is that the money I spend via the Council Tax on the disposal of nappy waste should be considered very carefully. I’m sure all the Camden residents who washed their own nappies or used a nappy laundry service feel the same way I do.
So far the money spent on preventing nappy waste has never been sufficient to really affect attitudes in Camden. However, it does feel like most Camden residents just don’t want to give up the convenience of ‘disposable’ napppies. But perhaps promoting washable nappies was going in the wrong direction in Camden. Perhaps we just need pictures of appropriately aged toddlers sitting on a potty on the side of refuse trucks to combat images on the television of 3 year olds going and fetching their own single-use ‘training pants’ from the chest of drawers. It could be a lot cheaper than sending out vans specifically to collect nappy waste. Worth a try? They could even add the message “Do not put disposable nappies in the recycling bin. No single-use nappies are recyclable” – yet.
If you’d like to take part in Camden’s nappy recycling pilot please sign up at nappyzap.com by 22 Feb.