Are You Putting Nappies In Your Recycling? Here's Why You Really Shouldn't

Disposable nappies cannot be recycled – and more than three billion end up in landfill.
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It might seem logical to put your child’s dirty nappy in the recycling. After all, the contents of a nappy are ‘natural’ enough – organic, even. But experts are warning otherwise, after a survey revealed lorry-loads of recycling are being thrown away because they have so many nappies in them.

Workers at recycling centres are also having to remove the offending items by hand from conveyor belts to allow them to sort out other recycled items.

The problem, according to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) – which launched the campaign #BinYourNappy – is that many parents don’t realise that disposable nappies cannot be recycled.

Disposable nappies are made of composite materials, which are extremely difficult to break down and re-use, and almost all go straight to landfill.

The authority estimates the problem costs it nearly £1.5m a year, and hopes that this campaign will encourage parents to throw used nappies in the bin. It also hopes to urge manufacturers to make it clearer via labels on nappy packaging that “biodegradable” does not mean “recyclable”.

“It’s hard to over-estimate the scale of this unsavoury problem,” said NLWA chairman Clyde Loakes, who added contamination of recycling damages the environment and is costly for taxpayers.

“It’s hard to over-estimate the scale of this unsavoury problem.”

“We know parents want to do the right thing,” Loakes said. “That’s why we’re asking parents to put used nappies in the general waste bin.”

It comes after a census-wide poll found that one in 10 UK parents with children under three thought nappies went in a different bin, with almost half assuming biodegradable nappies were recyclable. More than two-fifths thought that was the case for compostable nappies.

If you’re worried about the estimated three billion nappies that end up in landfill every year, there is an alternative: reusable nappies. Many councils have a collect and wash service via the ‘Real Nappies’ scheme. You can find out more here.

Or read up about this nappy recycling plant in Holland which is aiming to process 15,000 nappies a year into renewable energy and furniture.