There is no doubt that both cloth and disposable nappies have an impact on the environment and there is no point pretending otherwise. That said, most things we buy from the supermarket affect the environment in some way. The important question then becomes what are we doing to minimise the impact our products have on our planet?

Here at Kimberly-Clark (members of Snugglers® Nappies) we have given a lot effort to researching and improving our products to where they are today. All of this is designed to provide parents with the best possible products and ensure we minimise the impact of these products on the environment. You may be interested to know:

  • Biodegradable nappies can't degrade much in landfill

    Landfill sites are engineered to be stable and low in moisture. In Australia, landfills are so dry and compact they tend to "mummify" their contents. As a result, nothing much breaks down in landfill - even newspapers, which are 100% degradable, remain intact and legible for decades. This means a biodegradable nappy in landfill is normally not given the chance to biodegrade.

    (Virtually all nappies you put in your garbage bin end up in landfill).

    We understand you may still be concerned about the volume of your disposable nappies going to landfill (see Nappies make up around 1% of landfill). That's why we have focused on a real issue in landfill management and reduced the volume, or bulk, of our nappies, to reduce the space they take up in landfill. We have significantly lessened the bulk of Snugglers nappies over the past 10 years. This reduction has largely been achieved by substituting fibre with additional super-absorbent material and more effective product design.

  • Nappies make up around 1% of landfill

    Nappies make up around 1% of landfill (total urban solid waste).

    Nappies are about 2% by weight of all domestic wastes, and domestic wastes are only about 36% of all urban solid wastes going to landfill.

    Interestingly, food and garden waste accounts for around 55% of our total domestic waste3.

    Landfill sites are commonly old mining quarries, but increasingly technology is allowing us to use above-ground sites. Once covered with suitable material, these sites are stable and safe, and are used for things as varied as playgrounds and commercial building sites.

    Australia's total landfilled waste is around 22 million tonnes a year - a volume of say 3 km by 1 km by 10m high. If all landfills were constructed above ground, a mound like this every year would be insignificant in a country the size of Australia.

  • Disposable and reusable nappies each have similar environmental impacts

    There have been many studies comparing disposable nappies with reusable ones. The Australian Consumers Association, in a consumer study of nappy performance concluded1:

    "There's no clear environmental advantage in using cloth nappies over disposables. Both have damaging environmental impacts."

    In addition a major two year independently reviewed study sponsored by the UK Government Environment Agency - Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)2 released 19 May 2005 - found there was: "...little or nothing to choose between them".

    This thoroughly documented UK study assessed a wide range of activities associated with manufacture, use and disposal of disposable and reusable nappies which can affect the environment. It showed that:

    1. using cloth nappies uses more water, energy and detergents, and
    2. disposable nappies contribute more solid waste to landfill.

    The results of this independent study confirm the findings of five other life cycle assessment studies conducted since 1991.

    These conclusions reinforce the fact that all activities have an environmental impact. Some of these activities have immediate visibility (wastes that go to landfill), while others go unseen (energy, water & chemicals used in washing).

    Both nappy alternatives were found to have similar, overall impacts on the environment with the differences being the stage of each product's life cycle where the impact occurs.

    Based on these studies and conclusions, parents can now make a guilt free choice based on other important factors such as performance, cost and convenience.

  • We use renewable fibres in Snugglers® Nappies

    At Kimberly-Clark we make fibre for nappies from pine wood (Pinus radiata) from sustainable and renewable plantations. As parents, you can be reassured that these forests are replanted and managed to ensure full sustainability into the future.

    The fibre in Kimberly-Clark's nappies uses pine plantation wastes called "thinnings". In the past, this thinning material was left to rot on the forest floor or burnt.

  • Snugglers® Nappies are hydrogen-peroxide bleached (not chlorine bleached)

    Hydrogen-peroxide (not chlorine) is used to bleach nappy fibre. Bleaching is important as it improves the absorbency and fibre integrity of the nappy pad. This process produces oxygen and leaves negligible residue in the environment.

For even more information visit the Kimberly-Clark Australia website or contact our Consumer Advisory Service on 1800 028 334 or via email

Reprinted from the August 1999 edition of CHOICE - with the permission of the Australian Consumers Association (ACA)."A life cycle assessment of disposable and reusable nappies in the UK", 19 May 2005. NSW EPA State of Environment Report 1997