FAQ’s on compostable v biodegradable nappies

What is the most sustainable disposable nappy?

A nappy that not only takes into account the manufacturing process but also the disposal factors at the end of the nappy’s life. The whole cycle needs to be considered. This cycle is called “cradle to cradle” whereby, no materials are sacrificed to the grave (landfill) and their potential is turned into compost from which more material can grow.

There are more and more claims of biodegradability in new “so called” eco-disposables. A nappy that carries 95% biodegradability but must still be disposed of in landfill where as a 100% compostable nappy will be turned in a resource – compost!

What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable nappies?

BIODEGRADABLE: ‘Biodegradable’ simply means that a product will break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a reasonable amount of time in the natural environment. The term ‘biodegradable’ however has no legal enforcement or definition. Therefore, the term has been used loosely by some manufacturers. Products that are labeled as ‘biodegradable’ will go to landfill. However it is important to remember that landfills lack the microorganisms and oxygen required for waste to biodegrade in a timely manner, so you should still try to minimize the amount of wasted material.

COMPOSTABLE: ‘Compostable’ products are biodegradable, but with an added benefit: when they break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants. These products degrade within several weeks in an industrial composting facility and produce no toxic residues.. Compostable items are commonly made out of PLA (Polylactic acid), bagasse (sugarcane fiber) or vegetable starch. It is environmentally-preferable to use disposable products that are labeled ‘compostable’ rather than just ‘biodegradable’.

Misuse of the terms compostable and biodegradable can lead buyers to costly mistakes. Some countries have now moved to ban the use of the word biodegradable on packaging, as there is little benefit if the end product still ends up in landfill. Products may be described as compostable provided they conform to accepted standards.


What happens to disposables in landfill?

In short nothing. They just sit there mostly…and sit there…..and sit there…. In fact, it is what all waste in landfill is supposed to do.

Landfill is designed to contain waste in a stable anaerobic environment. It has walls that are strong and not able to be breached as well as a very stable unmoving, unleaking base to prevent leaching into our water tables..

Plastic nappies in landfill are supposed to just sit there.

What about highly biodegradable nappies in landfill?

Biodegradable nappies go to landfill, they do break down, but the material has nowhere to go, instead greenhouse gases are emitted which will increase our carbon taxes and which will increase landfill costs. But as we mentioned before – this nappy can NOT be composted.

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