In The Eco-Balance Jungle

In addition, laundering consumes electricity and water. This creates air pollution with carbon disulphides and nitric oxides, caused by emissions from power plants that produce the electricity for the domestic washing machines. And using a tumble drier will tilt the balance even further. Mr. Suhr of UBA states that a drier consumes an equal amount of electricity as a laundry load at 60° . Some readers of ECO TEST are trying to redress the balance in favour of cloth nappies: some use warm water from their own solar cells during the summer months, some others are using water from their rain water collector units for the laundry rinse programme. If you compare advantages and disadvantages of washables versus disposables, one more variable must be taken into account: professional nappy laundry services. The factors for this service are comparable to those in a domestic washing situation. 


An additional negative point is the air pollution created by their delivery vehicles. Its extent depends largely on the distances driven and frequencies of visits to customers, and how well routes are organised. Furthermore, trips to the laundry itself must be taken into account, as professional nappy services get their laundry done in huge commercial laundries. Only few do their own washing. Commercial laundries also use water and electricity, but they utilise these resources more efficiently. Industrial washing machines re-use water several times and the energy for running washers and dryers is normally derived from gas rather than electricity. 


The market for nappy services could be much larger, as can be seen in the USA. Over 10% of American parents are using nappy services. In Germany, barely 7% do so. Everybody else prefers to pack their babies into disposable nappies, without doubt the easiest method - especially when travelling. Michael Suhr (UBA) is presently making a new effort, trying to enlighten the Eco-Balance Jungle. Early this year, his office mailed questionnaires to 90 German nappy laundry services. Questions to answer do not only relate to number of clients, distances driven and what material the laundry bags are made of. The UBA also wants to know at which temperature setting the nappies are laundered, whether disinfectants are being used, what type of machines, and what type of laundry detergent. At first glance, much speaks in favour of the re-usable nappy, but one has to await the result of this new study. Only then it will be possible to put a value on the various systems. 


Until then, it remains to be said: "At present, it is impossible to say which type of diapering is the most ecological one" to quote Suhr. Although, nowadays, no elemental Chlorine is used to bleach disposable nappies, but chemicals containing Oxygen instead, we still consider the visually pleasing brighteners as totally unnecessary. Therefore, we have given 32 out of 33 disposable nappies tested, 1 mark down. The only unbleached exception is the Moltex Eco. However, Procter & Gamble do not want to give up their bleached nappies, with their hygienic looking white colour. Christel Karesch says that bleached nappies are just more absorbent. But, aren’t the superabsorbent granules in the nappies supposed to do that job?