With Diaperkind, Using Cloth Diapers Is No Big Deal

A diaper service does all the laundry for you—and spares tons of plastic waste.

 baby in yellow cloth diaper

Lesley Magno/Getty Images

For households concerned with reducing the amount of plastic they generate, opting for cloth diapers is an obvious and smart choice. The average baby soils 3,500 diapers per year, which means that dirty diapers could comprise as much as 50% of your household's waste. 

Not only is that a lot of smelly trash to deal with, but disposable diapers are made with petroleum products that could take 500 years or more to biodegrade. In other words, all of the disposable diapers used and thrown away since their invention in the late 1940s are still kicking around today. That's a nasty thought—and an excellent reason to opt out of that linear model if possible.

Diaperkind, a Diaper Washing Service

Cloth diaper design and washing technology have come a long way in recent decades, but one way to make it even less daunting is to sign up for a diaper service. This is a company that picks up bags of dirty diapers from your home and swaps them for freshly laundered ones, sparing you the hassle of washing them yourself.

Diaperkind is one such service. Based in New York City, it's the biggest in the United States. Treehugger spoke to owner Nina Lassam about her unusual line of work and why she's so passionate about it. (Hint: The environment plays a big role.)

Lassam said, "My mom used a cloth diaper service and I remember her bringing the bag downstairs for pickup with my little sister. So when I got pregnant with my first, it was an easy decision." She added that it was after moving from Canada to the U.S. that she spent more time at the beach with her family—and noticed increasing amounts of plastic in the water. "It made the issue more real to us. Having kids, too, was a game changer. Thinking about the world they’ll inherit is a huge motivator for me."

A product's entire life cycle should be considered when purchased, and diapers are no exception. Lassam explained that disposable diapers are "generally made of petroleum, wood pulp, and other chemicals. They’re often packaged in plastic, bleached white, and made of both domestic and international components, which tacks on the impact of transportation."

Compostable disposables, which are sometimes pushed as a green alternative, aren't a great choice either, as many municipal composting facilities in the U.S. don't accept diapers; this means they end up in landfill, anyway. Lassam added that diapers are the third largest consumer item in landfills and diaper-aged babies in the United States add over 30 million diapers every year. Despite these depressing numbers, Lassam remains optimistic.

"The conversation around reducing our reliance on plastic bags and straws has been really encouraging and I think it motivates a lot of people to think about reusable diapers, too. One of my favorite statistics, though, is that cloth-diapered babies potty train an average of one to two year earlier. That’s not only amazing for parents, but a real reduction on the number of diapers you need."

Going cloth is a no-brainer when someone else is doing the washing. Additional laundry is one of the primary reasons why people try—and give up—cloth diapering. Sometimes they're worried about hygiene and not being able to sterilize the diapers adequately at home, but Diaperkind deals with all of those doubts. 

"The diapers are sent to a professional facility where the loads are tested for cleanliness. Additionally, a service means you can size up as your baby grows, which takes a lot of the guess work out of cloth diapering." 

The website explains that a family's diapers are labeled, so you are always rotating through the same ones. Diaperkind uses a plant-derived detergent that's certified as DfE ("designed for the environment") by the Environmental Protection Agency. Pickups and drop-offs are done by drivers in their own cars, avoiding the need for a larger gas-guzzling delivery van. Old diapers are donated to charitable organizations and have gone to places like Haiti, Uganda, as well as low-income families in the U.S. and animal shelters.

Before you give up on the idea of cloth diapers and assume they're too much work, consider a diaper service. Check out Diaperkind's model here, available to most people in the NYC area, or look for a similar service wherever you live.

View Article Sources
  1. Morgan, Philip, and Robert J. Watkinson. "Biodegradation of Components of Petroleum." Biochemistry of Microbial Degradation, 1994, pp. 1-31., doi:10.1007/978-94-011-1687-9_1