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In recent times, the Garden City of India, Bangalore, has often been nicknamed as The Garbage Capital of India. The aroma of filter coffee wafting from eateries has been replaced by the stench of garbage being dumped in every nook and corner of the city. Isn’t this a wake-up call for all citizens? As a new parent, I realised that I was adding to this urban chaos by using disposable diapers for my baby.
The impact that disposables have on the environment during production and post usage far outweighs their convenience. 70% of a disposable diaper is made of a paper-like fibre, which needs the usage of wood-pulp for production. The remaining 30% is made from petroleum, nearly 250 ml of it goes into the making of a single disposable diaper. As the realization set in, I came across some startling facts – a family with a child between 0-2 years of age uses approximately 5 disposable diapers a day, which contributes to more than a ton of trash per child in a time span of 2 years! While nobody can say for sure how much time a disposable diaper may need to decompose, the best estimate is upwards of 100 years! Imagine, the disposable diaper used for my child may not even decompose during my great grandchild’s lifetime! Also tossing a dirty disposable into the garbage trash means we are adding raw untreated human waste that is a potential breeding ground for diseases and can percolate into the water-table contaminating ground water.
Like most of you, I have always felt disgusted at the sight of dogs fighting over dirty diapers and sanitary napkins on the streets. Knowingly or unknowingly, we are exposing animals to this horrific waste too. Urban pastures for shelter-less cows is often garbage dumps and they become casualties of this senseless dumping.
Further reading about disposable diapers led me to even more startling facts which ensured that I don’t use any disposable diapers at all for my little one. Disposable diapers contain dioxins, a by-product of chlorination used for bleaching in the production process. And what do you think comprises the super absorbent “magic gel” that disposable diaper manufacturers proudly showcase?; a combination of chemicals – sodium acrylate, a type of Super Absorbent Polymer has been associated with toxic shock syndrome in the past. Pthalates used for adding flexibility to the product, may lead to various complications in children related to the developing nervous and reproductive systems. These mimic human hormones and may result in false signalling to the body. And then there are heavy metals, Tributyl Tin which impairs immune and hormonal system and may cause sterility in male children.
I started searching for more viable options and soon came across Modern Cloth Diapers which have become a great asset in my journey of motherhood. As the name suggests, these are made of cloth! What better than cloth to use against baby's gentle skin? These are environment friendly – so all that we got to do is use, wash, repeat. Cloth diapers are pocket friendly too. A family with a small baby needs to spend around 18-20k in a year on disposables. Whereas an investment of about INR12-15k in cloth diapers will last them 2 years & beyond(can be used for another baby in future too!)It is also believed that children who use cloth diapers get toilet trained faster than those using disposables. Further, these products are waterproof, so no more leakage episodes that come with traditional cloth nappies that we use. Add to it, these cloth diapers come in cute prints in an array of colours. After months of using cloth diapers with the same convenience factor offered by disposables, I realised that Indians are still waking up to this wonderful product. This product can make a great environmental & health impact if millions of Indians learn about it and give thumbs up to it over disposables.
I always keep a famous proverb in mind, “We have not inherited the Earth from our ancestors but borrowed it from our children”. If we want a safer, healthier environment for our future generation, now is the time to act. Just like charity, I believe that even sustainability begins at home and a small change like switching from disposables to their eco-friendly counterparts can make a great difference towards a better balance in ecology. As parents, if making a smart choice can help us contribute to a Swachh Bharat, then let's do our bit by adopting cloth diapers and spreading the word.
(Blog Image Courtesy: Freepik)