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Are Diapers Biodegradable? Here Are the Most Sustainable Diaper Options


If you’re a parent of a baby in diapers, you probably have a lot on your mind right now. One of those things is probably changing diapers — and another is probably the sheer amount of money you spend on them, and consequently, the amount of diapers you’re sending to the landfill. (And also, sleep. Remember sleep?)

Most babies use between 2,500 and 3,000 disposable diapers in just their first year of life, and they continue requiring diapers until they are potty trained, running the total cost somewhere between $1,500 to $2,000 for diapers for one baby, on average. Not to mention, disposable diapers account for 2 percent of the U.S.’s landfill waste. That’s a whole lot of cash and trash.

For those reasons, many modern parents wonder if single-use diapers are biodegradable, and what the most sustainable options are for diapering a baby. Read on for everything you need to know about how diapers should be disposed of, what eco-friendly alternatives exist, and more. 

Are Diapers Biodegradable?

Unfortunately, conventional single-use diapers are not biodegradable. When something is biodegradable, that means it is made from nature, and is able to break down naturally and turn back into soil. Single-use diapers are typically made from a variety of plastic-based ingredients, and plastic is not biodegradable. According to the official SmartLabel for Pampers Swaddlers Newborn Diapers, ingredients of the popular diapers include: polypropylene/polyethylene, polyacrylate polymer, fluff pulp (derived from wood), polyester, thermoplastic polymers, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, and fragrance — and many of those ingredients are petroleum-derived.