Time for a Nappy Change: controls affecting families’ nappy choices

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Lifecycle assessments suggest that modern cloth nappies have fewer environmental impacts than their disposable
counterparts in terms of GHG, plastic and landfill (UNEP 2021). However, despite these apparent environmental
benefits consumers still use predominantly disposable nappies. This paper will use theories of planned
behaviour to explore the differences in perceived and actual behaviours between disposable and cloth nappy
users. A self-selecting web-based survey was used to recruit participants with children up to the age of five
and explore their decision-making in this regard. The findings of the survey reveal that disposable nappy users
are more likely to prioritise convenience and to cite additional laundry loads as the main reasons for not using
cloth nappies. This is despite tending to have the necessary infrastructure (such as disposable income, space
and washing facilities) to enable them to do so. This indicates that the perceptions of home-laundered cloth
nappies as inconvenient makes families more likely to opt for disposable nappies. Whilst cloth nappies were
generally assumed to be more environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing by all parents irrespective
of their choices, this was not enough to overcome the convenience and ease of use for the majority of participants.
This study concludes that many disposable nappy users select disposable nappies with the assumption
that they are easier and more convenient when this may not be the case. The implication of this study is that
interventions which improve the convenience of cloth nappies and the perception of ease of use will encourage
greater uptake of cloth nappies.
UNEP. (2021) Recommendations from Life Cycle Assessments Single-use nappies and their alternatives hosted
by. United Nations Environment Programme.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished online - 20 Jun 2022
Event32nd Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium - Ulster University, Belfast
Duration: 20 Jun 202222 Jun 2022
Conference number: 32


Conference32nd Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium
Abbreviated titleEnviron 2022
Internet address


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