The environmental impact of absorbent hygiene products is relatively small:
- Absorbent hygiene products contribute less than 0.5% of all solid waste and around 2% of municipal solid waste.
- Less than 1% of all commercial wood production ends up as wood pulp in absorbent hygiene products.
As manufacturers we take our responsibilities to reduce our environmental impact very seriously. We use life cycle assessment (LCA) techniques to analyse the impact of our processes and products to improve environmental performance at all stages and we report regularly on our progress;
- EDANA Sustainability Report 2011: Absorbent Hygiene Products
- EDANA Sustainability Report 2008: Absorbent Hygiene Products
We also work with regulatory authorities to ensure rigorous and meaningful environmental standards, we measure our performance against external standards and collaborate in finding innovative solutions to reduce waste in the community.
LCA for baby wipes
EDANA completed a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparing baby wipes, washcloth and cotton balls, which shows that a single-use product has no more impact on the environment than a reusable product. The study, commissioned by the main producers of baby wipes, shows a different environmental impact of baby wipes versus other cleaning methods, with no superiority on wash cloths and favourable results on the majority of indicators for the use of wipes vs. cotton balls.
As a result:
- The average weight of a diaper has been reduced by over 40% since 1987
- The weight of diaper packaging has been decreased by 41%
- The total energy impact of one child using diapers has decreased by 32% between 1987 and 2005
- The global warming and summer smog impacts of diapers have been reduced by 37 and 43% respectively over the same period.
Similar positive trends have been shown for incontinence, feminine hygiene products and personal care wet wipes.
what people say
“There was no significant difference between the overall environmental impacts of the disposable, home-use reusable and commercial laundry systems that were assessed.”
UK Environment Agency, 2005
“Due to the market position of disposable nappies manufacturers have delivered significant reductions in the global warming impact resulting from nappy use across all children”
UK Environment Agency, 2008
“DG Enterprise and Industry welcomes EDANA’s voluntary initiatives on sustainability and more particularly your members’ commitment to contribute to the continuous improvement of environmental performance of absorbent hygiene products.”
EC Enterprise and Industry Directorate General, 2007
did you know
The environmental impact of using disposable diapers for one child over an average of 30 months has been scientifically measured, and compares to the impact of driving a car between 2,100 to 3,500 kilometres (1300 – 2200 miles). The average car drives 40,225 kilometres (25,000 miles) over the same period of time.
On average, paper and board, garden waste and food waste each comprised between 18 and 20 percent of municipal solid waste compared with absorbent hygiene products comprising between 2–3 percent.