It’s 1999, I’m on a radio journalism course and for an assignment I put together an item about nappy waste for Real Nappy Week and pitch it to ‘You and Yours,’ the popular mid-day BBC Radio 4 consumer magazine programme. At the time I had no plans to set up a real nappy company … I was hoping for a career in radio journalism!
To liven up the item and punctuate the piece I made up a song and recorded some boys singing it at our local park.. Or to be more precise I put new words to the tune of the nursery rhyme ‘Pop! goes the Weasel’ which contains a verse “Up and down the City Road, In and out the Eagle, That’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel.” I can’t remember all the words of the nappy waste version now, but there were lines like “That’s the way a disposable’s filled, pop it in the landfill.
By coincidence, the company I founded almost 13 years ago, Nappy Ever After, moved last year from Camden to Hackney to premises just off the City Road, indeed very very close to the Eagle pub. So, to find us, get a bus to the City Road and get off at the Eagle. Or take the tube to Old Steet station, walk up the City Road and turn right at the Eagle pub on Shepherdess Walk. (Your phone will show a quicker route.) We’re more like a warehouse than a shop and don’t have normal shop hours. We’re open every Tuesday 2-6pm and by appointment.
A real nappy item was aired for Real Nappy Week 1999 on Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme. They used my idea and research but remade the item themselves. The show’s producer said I’d included too much about nappy waste and this was not relevant as it was a consumer choice programme! We think differently now, right?
To replace the nappy waste content they gave 2 mothers some real nappies to test for a few days. Would the consumers like them? They were disappointed that both mums found they worked really well and intended to switch from disposables! However as it was all so late in the day they had to run the item like that.
I was on the radio again recently. BBC Radio London called me to ask me to talk about nappy recycling on Eddie Nestor’s drive time show. The mic was closed on me when I wouldn’t shut up about 35% of children arriving for school in nappies. Eddie Nestor didn’t ask me what relevance this had to the topic of recycling disposable nappies, he just told me it wasn’t relevant and closed the mic.
This is the sort of silo mentality that fed the financial crisis. We need to connect issues. Just as 17 years ago what happened to disposable nappies after you’d thrown them in the bin wasn’t supposed to concern consumers, now 35% of children arriving at school in nappies in one of the most deprived schools in the UK has nothing do with whether or not £20million should be invested in a new Knowaste nappy recycling plant. How about spending a little bit of a public health budget on giving parents good information on how to potty train their children? It could halve the amount of disposable nappy waste Londoners generate and then, work out whether you need the nappy waste recycling plant or not.
PS Pop was cockney for pawn, and weasel, coat. There’s a metaphor in that nursery rhyme about nappy waste and the planet that I didn’t see at the time; if we waste all our finite resources on single-use nappies (which aren’t of course disposable at all, such a clever name, like clean diesel) our descendants may find themselves wihout a coat/protection from climate chaos.