Are reusable nappies the real deal?

Abi Reid baking away,  reducing food waste across South Yorkshire
Abi Reid
1 Jan 2021

In the UK, 3 billion nappies are used each year, making up 2-3% of all household waste! Do you have a little one on the way? (or already here!) 

Here is some information about reusable alternatives.

A set of reusable nappies

From birth to potty training, you should expect your child to go through 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies.

As you can imagine, this creates a lot of waste that cannot be recycled and can take hundreds of years to decompose.

In comparison, a baby only needs 20-30 reusable nappies, which can be passed onto friends, family and siblings after they no longer need them.

We have asked some new and established parents about their experiences with reusable nappies and have used their insights to create this guide below.



The most obvious benefits of reusable nappies are the benefits to our environment and reduced waste. In fact, most of the parents we asked said that they chose reusables as they are more environmentally friendly.

And they are not wrong! Most disposable nappies are made from plastics which can take a long time to decompose and cannot be recycled. This means they can end up in landfill or energy from waste facilities.

Another reason to choose reusable nappies is the cost. It is estimated that real nappies can save parents around £200-£500 over 2.5 years for their first baby and even more if used for subsequent children.



The initial costs of buying reusable nappies can be high although they can be sold again once your little one no longer needs them.

If you want to try out real nappies to see if they are right for you before investing visit the South Yorkshire Nappy Library where you can hire washable nappy kits or check to see if there is a nappy library in your area.

You can find second hand nappies on sites like Facebook marketplace, eBay and gumtree that still have plenty of life in them.

Reusable nappies increase the amount of times you have to turn on your washing machine in your household, even more than a baby does.

This factor can increase the carbon impact of reusable nappies. However, if you wash them in a full load, on a more energy efficient setting (or by hand) then air-dry them; it can greatly reduce their environmental impact.




Using reusable nappies all the time may not fit to your lifestyle and that is fine!

You may find it hard to completely go reusable at first however small actions really do make a big difference.

From speaking to our group of parents, we have come up with some suggestions to help you start on the reusable nappy journey:

  • Ease yourself into it: One of the parents we asked suggested only using the reusable nappies when in the home, and disposables when out and about. This way you can sort the used nappy out straight away and avoid carrying around poo-filled nappies in your bag as there is not always a toilet available near changing tables.


  • One of the other parents we asked struggled with keeping their little one dry at night and was finding reusable nappies to not be sufficient. They suggested using a disposable one at night-time could really ease the burden.


  • Using reusables is a lot of trial and error so expect leaks to happen!


  • When sending your child to the child minders, nursery or to relatives and friends, skip the reusables if the person changing them is not comfortable using them.


  • Try to buy secondhand ones first. They are a fraction of the price of new ones and just as good!


  • Give it a go! Gradually ease yourself into it to make it easier. Once you get over a few challenges, you really start to get the hang of it.



WANT TO FIND OUT MORE? Here are some more great resources on starting your reusable nappy journey!

  • South Yorkshire Nappy Library- Includes expert advice and informative videos demonstrating using reusable nappies. This page also offers a loan services for families across South Yorkshire, Contact them on their page to find out more:



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