How to change the world one diaper at a time

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 January, 2012, 12:00am


I am staring intently at a shelf full of well-known, brand-name products, wondering what to buy. I've been here before, deliberating between Diesel and 7 For All Mankind, Gap and Banana Republic. But now, thanks to being a new mum, the only contest I am really interested in is Huggies versus Pampers.

Laugh you might, but Google it - there are pages and pages of debate on this subject.

Anyone who's ever had to change a leaking diaper knows exactly what I am talking about. My sister-in-law once told me she knew mothers who would cut the clothes off their babies because the mess was so bad. At the time, I thought 'what a waste' and 'I hope they were careful with those scissors'.

Then we had our first explosive diaper situation and, yes, I had to cut my son Tom out. His clothes were slimed beyond anything ever seen in Ghostbusters.

I decided right then that in this diaper war I needed to be armed with the best ammunition.

So, I canvassed the masses (aka my mothers' group). The response was unanimous: 'Pampers!' they shrieked; 'Huggies leak!'

So we duly switched to Pampers. And all was well with the world again. Until, that is, Tom graduated from small to medium. The leaks returned with a vengeance. I called on the masses again, many of whom have larger babies. 'Oh Lord - you're still using Pampers!' they cried. 'Do the switcheroo! Huggies medium are the ticket.' So we swapped back.

At dinner recently, I found myself discussing diapers. (Has my life really come to this?)

Someone at the table told us about scientists in Germany who spend their life's work studying diapers and how to make the crystals inside both super-absorbent and biodegradable. That's right - day after day analysing diaper after glorious diaper.

I listened, engrossed, while a young (childless) couple at the table laughed at the unimportance of such work and commented that these losers would be better off studying particle physics.

Disposable diapers are the scourge of the earth, filling up landfills at the most phenomenal rate. Disposable diapers each take more than 500 years to decompose. Yikes!

With this in mind, I visit Bumps to Babes to investigate biodegradable options. The only ones available are brand called Beaming Baby. The diapers are more than 65 per cent biodegradable and disintegrate in less than four years. That's well and good, but they are twice the price of disposable diapers - HK$200 for 50. I wanted to do it, but it was too much for my budget.

I contacted Friends of the Earth for advice. They directed me towards an even greener alternative by a Hong Kong-based company called Charlie Banana. It makes washable cloth diapers that have a reusable insert that you wash. They also have a disposable insert for occasions when you can't wash them. They claim that with 24 to 36 of these your baby will be clean, dry and environmentally friendly until it's time for potty training.

This seems more reasonable: HK$163 for one diaper with two inserts and HK$102 for three more reusable inserts. It's a high initial outlay, but not when compared to the ongoing cost of disposable diapers.

The sooner all diapers are reusable or biodegradable the better. And the more affordable this option is the better.