We recently published an article in which Australian writer Kelly Dombroski speculated about how Australian's might react to a ban on disposable nappies.
The Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu is working towards a total ban on disposable nappies, to be implemented later this year, which is what inspired Kelly, a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, to consider what the alternatives could be.
We were surprised at the sheer number of South African parents who wrote to us to share their thoughts and concerns about such a ban.
Additionally, hundreds of parents shared their experience of using cloth nappies - South Africa's alternative to disposables - with the majority expressing their enthusiasm for this method.
There was no going back
"I have been converted to cloth nappies! My first three children used disposable nappies, but I wanted a change and was always curious about cloth nappies since my firstborn but decided to go with what is conventional in society.
With my fourth, I chose to use cloth nappies when my daughter was 6 weeks. Once I got started, there was no going back not even when I went out. No compromises!
I wash the nappies every other day and don't feel like it's a chore. Funnily, I can't wait to wash and dry them! I make a chamomile solution to use with cloth wipes too. I haven't used a single baby wipe on my daughter. She is now 16 months old. It's the best decision I made." - Azra
Also read: Toilet training from birth? Yes, it is possible
Loving every single nappy I make
"I have been using modern cloth nappies for 2 years now, absolutely love them! I can't even compare them with sposies! No rashes!
Breathable, as they are made of natural fibres, biodegradable, and the list goes. I am even sewing them and loving every single nappy I make, and so do my customers!" – Outeng
They are so convenient
"I use cloth nappies and absolutely love them. They are so convenient.
People have this idea that the nappies are the same as what our parents used when we were babies. Today's cloth nappies are modern, easy to use and have the most adorable prints available. It saves me money in the long run.
The problem in South Africa is that our waste is not properly disposed of, there is no recycling program. Disposables take hundreds of years to break down and this does not help our situation in South Africa.
Once you start, you will not use another disposable. I ask of the mommies to consider making the change" – Stephany
Baby H in his adorable crab themed cloth nappy
"I chose cloth because of the environmental factors. Knowing that a single disposable diaper can take up to 500 years to fully decompose is a very unsettling thought.
Also the cost of cloth vs disposable played a big role in my decision.
I got almost all of my diapers 2nd hand which saved more money, but even if I bought them brand new it would be a fraction of the cost of disposables.
Plus who can ignore all the cute prints?" - Jelma
Why isn't everybody using this?
"I was so happy to see a post about modern cloth nappies, as the modern world is almost too afraid for this "trend" to go viral! What is not to like?
You save between R12000 to R15000 per child, cloth is more gentle on the skin and the nappies have a stay-dry layer against the skin, so they do not get as many rashes as with disposables, you almost never have to use bum cream, you can resell (there is a big market for second-hand cloth nappies) and reuse it for more children. Not to talk about the prettiest bums!
So I ask you now why isn't everybody using this?
Because disposable nappies are in store, most cloth nappies are only available online and you see them only at baby expos! They are not sold in everyday supermarkets, which makes logistics a problem!
And the biggest reason people don't know about this? Because no one told them. Most people still have the idea of soaking nappies and sterilizing the nappies!
I am a very proud cloth parent. I have used it from birth with my baby girl and we are still going strong!" – Anonymous Parent
Many cloth parents are extremely proud of their 'stash'
Poop goes in the toilet where it should
"Modern cloth nappies are very cute and very convenient.
I wouldn't change my cloth nappies for all the disposable nappies in the world even if they were given to me for free." – Christine
We loved what we saw
"As a single grandmother, when my daughter became pregnant we looked into cloth nappies at the baby fair in Joburg, we loved what we saw.
As money was tight, we knew what 3 years of disposables would cost and decided to go the cloth route, buying the nappies on credit to make paying easier.
We also then discovered the Facebook pages solely for cloth users, these were very helpful, and discovered that these nappies could be bought second hand but good condition for even less than new ones.
And so we built up a stash of about 50 nappies over time, costing a fraction of what the disposables would have cost.
We kept the nappies after baby was potty trained and are now into year two of baby number two, using the same nappies.
We simply love our stash and encourage people to go that route and have convinced quite a number of people to do so." – Yolanda
The good old days
Many parents took a walk down memory lane, sharing their experience of using cloth nappies “back in the day”:
Debbie commented: I never used them, nothing better than looking at my kids' WHITE nappies on the line...Sunlight soap and hands...was so proud!!!
Wendy replied: I did exactly the same and I know that feeling so well. Wonderful memories for me.
Busani shared: That's how our mothers used to do back in the days. Now I am grown even started making my own little ones
Michele said: In the old day this is all there was. We've become so precious now, hard work is frowned upon. We need to save this planet.
Disposables are a disgrace to our environment
Others supported the idea of a ban on disposable nappies, sharing the issues of waste disposal they face in their communities, and more.
Eileen said: I find it so amazing that the poorest of the poor continues to buy disposables. My neighbour can hardly put food on the table. Both my kids were raised on cloth nappies. But then again, we are living in a disposable world where you throw away and buy again. Sadly.
Louise agrees with the call to reduce pollution: Get rid of disposable nappies, cling wrap, paper towels etc. We had a good life before them, and we will continue to have a life once they disappear!
Also read: Diane Kruger uses eco nappies for environmental reasons, and 31% of South Africa's cloth parents do too
Daphney said: Yhooo, I wish they can be banned. Dogs fight for them right now in my yard, plus parents are very careless. That will reduce dirt from our landfill. Imagine how many kids we have in KZN alone and how many nappies goes to the landfill.
Margot shared: Disposable nappies are a rip-off and a disaster to the environment. Cloth or terry nappies worked fine with SteriNappy, nappy liner and sunlight. No sweat and no nappy rash, not once.
Celeste agreed: About time there was talk of banning disposable nappies. They are all over Tylden in the litter. Take years to degrade.
Fhatuwani echoed these sentiments: Disposables are a disgrace to our environment.
Tshifhiwa would welcome a ban: Thank God, because disposable ones are all over the place at our rural areas, poor disposable methods.
Will never work in South Africa
On the other hand, some readers are very much against a ban, and shared their reasoning on social media:
Jeanette says a ban will never work in South Africa: Too many lazy people that only care about themselves and don't care a hoot about the environment.
Kayler said: Never, no way. Disposable nappies are a need. I will never use cloth nappies. Hell no. That can't happen.
Shannelle agreed: I would be that one mom who disposes of the cloth nappies and just buy new ones every week. My gag reflexes would unfortunately not cope with cleaning nappies. I heard all the stories of my mom cleaning ours when I was a baby lol. Just. Can't. Do. It.
Also read: How to persuade your daycare to use cloth nappies (or not, as the case may be)
Belinda shared concerns around situations where disposable nappies are necessary: For special needs teenagers and adults in nappies this is not going to be easy! Can you change your adult child's nappy 5 or 6 times a day if you're over 50-years-old? And then wash them? Can you imagine the increased cost of water and electricity, not to mention the strain?
Shelly-Ann implied that parents would make a plan: Black market for nappies?
At the end of the day, South Africa isn't currently considering a ban on disposable nappies, and while many parents aren't ready yet, there is a growing movement towards a more environmentally friendly way.
Namhla is excited to get started on her cloth nappy journey: I'll be joining the cloth revolution in September and I can't wait!
Would you support a ban on disposable nappies in South Africa?
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