Why the Diaper Tax Isn’t an Effective Way to Tackle Climate Problems
Guy Schanschieff MBE, co-founder and managing director of Bambino Mio, explains why introducing a tax on disposable nappies is not the best way to tackle climate problems
As COP26 approaches, governments around the world are pledging to achieve net zero and assess their environmental impacts. As politicians set their sustainability goals, manufacturers are also looking for ways to reduce their carbon emissions and protect the planet. Whether it’s replacing plastic straws with paper, replacing single-use cotton swabs with reusable cotton swabs, and eliminating microbeads from their products, more and more companies are embracing a environmentally friendly approach to developing their products.
One everyday product that has not followed this trend is the single-use diaper. According to The Nappy Alliance, single-use nappies contribute around 8% of residual waste in England and collecting and disposing of them costs local authorities £140million a year. For perspective, this equates to throwing away 6,000 plastic bags every year for every child in diapers. Not only does this directly harm the local environment, but incineration and landfilling also increases carbon dioxide and methane levels, setting governments back in their quest for net zero.
Let’s look at the facts. Almost 10 million disposable nappies are thrown away every day in the UK. This is equivalent to 3.6 billion diapers each year that will take 500 years to degrade. Switching to reusable diapers will significantly reduce landfill waste, incineration and greenhouse gas emissions associated with both. It will also reduce resource consumption, which is responsible for destroying habitats and endangering wildlife. While there are still real barriers to using cloth diapers, including higher upfront costs and a lack of awareness of their benefits, these can be overcome if there is the political will to do so.
The Nappy Alliance has offered a voucher offering at least 50% off the price of a reusable diaper in hopes of not only significantly reducing the cost for parents, but also encouraging more people to try reusable diapers. . In the long term, reusable nappies are estimated to save parents around £1,500 and unlike single-use nappies, reusable nappies can be passed on to siblings, saving more. For more comparison, the number of single-use diapers needed before a baby begins potty training are around 4,000-6,000whereas with washable diapers, you will only need 20 to 30 diapers over the same period.
The Nappy Alliance also recommends training local councils and employing experts to deliver diaper education to reduce information gaps and increase accessibility and trust in reusable nappies. Instead of blaming or punishing parents for using disposable nappies by taxing them, which would only make people more vulnerable, companies and authorities should do more to encourage parents to switch to reusable nappies. making them aware of their benefits. Not only is it better for the environment, but in the long run, it’s also more cost effective.
With 11.7 million people still live below the poverty line in the UK, 3.2 million being children, a tax on diapers would only worsen existing inequalities. Child poverty is a pressing issue, with millions of low-income parents already struggling to make ends meet. A diaper tax will only cause these parents more stress and worry and increase their financial burden. The responsibility therefore lies with companies, manufacturers and authorities. Our proposed financial incentive program would be funded by reusable diaper retailers and manufacturers, as reusable diapers will save parents a considerable amount of money in the long run and effectively put money back in the pockets of parents. Local support will be funded by councils from the savings they see in collection and disposal costs.
Reusable nappies offer a real step towards achieving net zero, the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and saving money for parents and local councils. But we are running out of time. If we want to protect the environment for our children and the next generation after them, we need to make the change now. As COP26 approaches, the UK government has an opportunity to lead by example and lead the way. I urge them to take it.