Chlorine free disposable diaper advertise that they offer a safe alternative to conventional white diapers. They hint that chlorine free diapers are better for the planet. While I am firmly in favor of avoiding the use of chlorine and resulting creation of nasty chemicals like dioxin - avoiding chlorine is just one step towards a healthier planet. These chlorine-free disposable diapers are still made with plastic that is made with petroleum products. They still contain other chemicals and they still use wood pulp and other resources.
Any disposable diaper uses a lot more resources when the raw materials are shipped to the factory, then the finished diapers are shipped to a warehouse, and finally to a store where they are then driven to a home. Whew! That is a lot of travel for a heavy box of diapers.
Let's not forget that for each of the 95 percent of parents who still use disposable diapers, 6,000 or more disposable diapers are going to end up in a landfill for hundreds of years. The numbers are staggering- 18 billion disposable diapers used in the US each year. Assuming that amounts to about 3,000 diapers per child each year, that is about 6 million kids in diapers. Compare 24 cloth diapers versus 6,000 disposables and you can easily see which diaper is the easiest on the planet.
Disposable anything is not good for the planet. We wash our clothing, our dishes, and even our reusable water bottles to help cut down on resource use and the huge landfill problem we are creating for future generations. Washing cloth diapers uses about the same amount of water as an adult flushing the toilet 5 times a day, yet no one suggests we all move to using paper underwear to save water.
Studies that make resource use for disposable diapers look equal to cloth diapers are often based on washing methods no one actually uses (raise your hand if your home water heater is set to 190 degrees - now go turn it down before your kids get scalded!). They also make line-drying diapers seem like a Herculean task when lots of moms and dads do it easily. Air-drying diapers can be done on a simple clothing rack if you want to do even more to lower your carbon footprint. These studies also consistently ignore the disposal problem, acting as if the answer is in simply producing and using the diapers. Someone has to use petroleum to haul those diapers to a landfill, and then they sit for hundreds of years.
Chlorine free diapers and wipes are also not cheap. They will cost you about $2,200 for just two years worth. If your child is in diapers longer, the the cost goes up. The larger sizes are sold for 40 or even 50 cents each. Cloth diapers, even really nice ones, will cost you from $200-600 for the whole two years. Best of all, if your child takes a little longer to potty train, you can usually keep using the same diapers. If you have a second child, cloth diapering becomes almost free since you can use the same diapers again. If you don't need them, there are organizations such as Miracle Diapers that lend cloth diapers to low-income families that will happily take good second-hand diapers.
Finally, disposable diapers that are chlorine-free are not chemical free. If you choose to use cloth diapers, you can find them in many different fabrics so you can choose what is against your baby's skin. Choose a stay-dry lining or go for all-natural fibers, you can even choose organic. Add an unscented, biodegradable laundry detergent and you have a simple system for keeping your baby's bottom chemical free.
Click to learn more about modern cloth diapers.