Are biodegradable nappies really biodegradable? Is biodegradablity a good thing in a nappy?

Faced with the stark choice between cloth nappies or commercial disposables, many mums have looked for a compromise. Biodegradable nappies seem to offer the convenience of a disposal with the social responsibility of a sustainable alternative. But consumers are confused about whether biodegradable nappies are indeed biodegradable, reports the Australian City News.

This year, the first 100 per cent biodegradable nappy went on sale. The Safeties Nature Nappy, which is the invention of Perth mother Charisma Sen, is made from 95 per cent natural materials and uses a new material developed in association with CSIRO. The base material is viscose felted (patented). Natural polymer, synthetically grafted to natural starch and fluff, makes up the absorbent core.

Contrary to popular assumption, these nappies may not breakdown in landfill. Spokesperson for Kimberley Clarke Ross Hearne suggests that 95 per cent of material in landfill does not degrade. But Jannine Barron, founder of Nature‘‘s Child online shopping portal, says: “You have to look at who‘‘s making these claims.”

The term biodegradable means that a substance is able to be broken down into simpler substances by the activities of living organisms, and therefore is unlikely to persist in the environment. Each country has its own standards with requirements ranging from 60 to 90 per cent decomposition within 60 to 180 days of being placed in a standard composting environment.

Market leaders in eco-nappies include Seventh Generation, Weenees, and Moltex Oko. Coles carry Babylove Ecobots, the only disposable nappy endorsed by Planet Ark and around 68 per cent biodegradable compared with 30-40 per cent for regular disposables.

On the subject of biodegradability Ecobots states: “This is a bit like: how long is a piece of string? The conditions under which the nappy is held will dictate the time for the process to arise. The corn starch components that break down have been developed according to a European Composting standard EN13432, this means 90 per cent of the material must fully breakdown after six months in a composting environment.”

But composting is quite different from landfill.

Safeties Nature Nappy maintains that it‘‘s product will break down within six to eight months depending on soil conditions. A spokesperson for Safeties explained: “It‘‘s a misconception that nothing breaks down in landfill. We have conducted our own independent tests and our nappies will break down in aerobic and anaerobic (airless) conditions.”

Jannine Barron says the problem may lie in the fact that there is no independent body to certify the biodegradability of products; there is only a certification body for raw materials, not finished goods. Safeties carry the OK COMPOST mark from AIB Vincotte Int. But this states that: “the material of a product can be composted in an industrial plant or in a private household‘‘s compost.” It does not specify landfill.

Barron is keen to point out the many other advantages to biodegradable nappies, insisting these companies should be applauded for their contribution to environmental production.

Biodegradable nappies are produced with more sustainable materials than regular disposables. Also, they usually eschew whiteners, perfumes, lotions and antioxidants. As they use less plastic they lower their crude-oil footprint as well. Moltex Eco Nappies are the first nappy licensed by GECA to carry the Good Environmental Choice Ecolabel, the only environmental labelling program that indicates the environmental performance of a product from a whole-product-life perspective.

The best solution might be to compost biodegradable nappies, though it may depend on the amount being u

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #33-2007-August 17, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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