But to make up for my absence, here’s something which has nothing to do with gardening whatsoever.
I am a very big nappy consumer (or rather my daughter is), and like many parents, I have guilty visions of landfill piles of them (now one year high) with great big Safi-labels stuck on them. Despite my early good intentions, I manage to come up with excuses for not using the cloth ones (too messy, they leak, more washing means tons more water and electricity, our flat is too small for soaking buckets all over the place, etcetera, etcetera). I know our grandmothers managed just fine, but if we’re going down that road, they also managed without the internet.
When I was pregnant, I said I’d use cloth, then when Safi was born I downgraded to only using the bio-degradable ones, and then as my bank balance shrivelled, so did my ethics, and now it’s whichever ones are on offer at the shop. Yuck.
Of course it’s complete madness to take the “easy” option a disposable provides, of producing synthetic fibres, plastic and adhesives, packaging, shipping, and purchasing the lot hundreds of times a month when I could just be giving a piece of cloth a rinse, but I feel like I spend half my free time doing housework as it is, and I can’t be bothered to do any more, which I freely admit to. I rationalise this by telling myself that I am pedantically “green” in every other aspect of my life so I’m allowed this one thing. Kind of. And I consistently find that it’s the one thing that other, otherwise sensible and ethically sound people allow themselves alongside their solar panels, Ecover and allotments.
So. I’m very hopeful about the UK’s first nappy-recycling centre which opened last week in the West Midlands, with four more due to open over the next four years. They’ll also recycle adult incontinence pads and sanitary towels, collectively known as AHPs (Absorbent Hygiene Products). Knowaste, the company behind the centre, “will use state-of-the-art technology to recycle AHPs, sterilising and separating the materials to recover plastic and fibre that can then be used for making new products, such as roof tiles or plastic components and fibre based construction and commercial tubes”, says the Guardian. The centre will recycle roughly one fifth of the UK’s AHPs, collecting from nurseries, hospitals and public washrooms.
The glaring omission here is obviously the vast majority of nappies which get disposed of at home and which therefore won’t be collected by Knowaste for recycling. Which makes me think how wonderful it would be if alongside our kitchen waste blue bin, garden waste brown bin and standard green recycling box, we were to start seeing nappy-recycling boxes as part of residential recycling.
Yes, it would be great if we could avoid the production and disposal of the waste material in the first place, but given that cloth has trouble taking off even among the most well-meaning of people, allowing parents an option B which doesn’t ask anything of their wallet and which slots neatly into a collection system which is already in place and perfectly adhered to seems like it could be second best. Still madness, but realistically something to be hopeful about.