Life cycle analysis of washable and disposable nappies

CE Delft conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) in which washable nappies were compared with disposable nappies.
Our focus is on the environmental impact of nappy use by Dutch households.

The LCA compares three nappy systems:

  • Single-use nappies incinerated after use (reference).
  • Single-use nappies recycled with thermal pressure hydrolysis after use.
  • Washable nappies that can be reused.

The study shows that single-use nappies that are incinerated have the highest environmental impact. In the case of washable nappies, the impact is determined by household behaviour. If a household has less economical appliances, does small washes more often and puts all the washed nappies in the dryer, washable nappies have a higher climate impact than disposable nappies. In environmentally conscious households with economical appliances and efficient washing habits, washable nappies can be up to four times better for the environment than disposable nappies.