Oma Rāpeti has always been an eco-conscious centre. We decided approximately three years ago to make the move to cloth nappies. With the environment forefront of mind, we couldn’t bring ourselves to put any more disposables in landfill. Roll on three years and our cloth nappies are due to be replaced. We were having a few housekeeping issues with cloth, so the question was:
What environmentally friendly nappy option could we replace our cloth nappies with?
The cloth nappy ECE journey
We have always fully supported parents who wanted to use cloth nappies with their children. We are very rubbish conscious (we split out bins down four ways - recycling, soft plastic recycling, compost/paper towels, and landfill).
Having looked at various environmental grants and talked to our team and parents, it was decided we would fully commit to cloth nappies. We invested about $4,000 to set up our cloth nappies which involved purchasing a variety of brands. This gave us enough nappies to rotate through our (approximately) 30 children in nappies. Children would arrive in their “home nappy”. This could be either cloth or disposable. The first change would then be into an Oma Rāpeti cloth nappy, right through until pick up where they would be changed back into their “home” nappy. We did go through a time of washing any home cloth nappies before using them for the next day to send the children off in, however found this was hard to track all the individual’s washing.
We also tried sending a cloth nappy home with the children at night, ready for them to come in in the morning. This worked well, but again was hard for everyone to remember.
Self-Review of Cloth Nappies
Roll forward three years (and a new centre owner now on board) and our cloth nappies were starting to wear thin. Remember that these have been washed and worn daily and been quite literally thrashed. We were faced with decision time in regards to reinvesting money to restock cloth or looking at other options. We had also accidentally put a load of cloth covers into a hot dryer, successfully melting the waterproof liner and rendering them useless. This meant numbers were getting low and we were starting to have to resort to disposables more than we liked.
We are still very supportive of cloth nappies (go you wonderful cloth nappy parents, you!), however have found that if you take one child in cloth and multiple it by 30, it does come with a few issues. The main point being the amount of laundry (hot wash/disinfect followed by line dried in the sunshine). Then refolding (a surprisingly time-consuming part of the day) and restocking the shelves. Then there was the dreaded winter where the limited sunshine would mean constant dryer usage or no dry liners.
During the self-review of the current cloth nappy situation something that was mentioned a lot was the time it was taking to change child. One of our teachers recorded a 45 minute change by the time she gently and respectfully changed one of our children and returned to clean a soiled cloth nappy. As part of our philosophy, we wouldn’t break a “care moment” of changing a nappy to wash a soiled one. Therefore the soiled nappy was stored hygienically and cleaned after the care moment had come to a natural end (i.e. the child was taken through and settled to sleep).
The search for solutions
Surely someone, somewhere had a better option? Well it turned out, we were starting our search just as Little and Brave were starting their journey of launching fully compostable nappies here in Auckland. FYI we say fully, because most of the compostable nappies on the market today are not actually compostable (i.e. they contain elastic/Velcro that does not break down etc). Also (see, you learn so much when you start to research topics like this!) a compostable nappy only breaks down in special commercial composting conditions, not in landfill.
We are very proud to say we were one of the first childcare centres to completely embrace the Little & Brave compostable nappies.
First up, we worked through a cost analysis. To restock nappies would be around $3,000. We had considered someone cleaning/restuffing them for around $10,000 per annum – however found that we would still need to send them clean of soiled matter (which was one of our key issues to overcome), so this wasn't viable for us. We also calculated extra power at around $1,800 per year. Team time is a harder calculation but we broke it down to about an hour a day saved (this is a conservative estimate), this is a huge amount when you multiple by a hourly rate – quick, work it out, it isn’t cheap!
Without sharing commercially sensitive pricing (you can contact Tahlia from Little and Brave here), we estimate that our compostable nappies come in as an affordable option. This includes a completely fresh and clean nappy bin each week (the lovely team from Little & Brave pop to our centre weekly). Our landfill/rubbish usage stayed the same, so there was no need to purchase more bins. Even better, some of our wonderful parents have started using compostable nappies! They simply drop the dirty nappies to our bins and go about saving the planet quietly, one nappy at a time.
Did we do a disposable analysis? No. To be honest, it was our absolute last preferred option at Oma Rāpeti. We know there is a small extra cost to our business to do cloth or compostable – but there is one planet... no brainer, right?
Our team use our old cloth covers on most of our children (along with the belts supplied by Little & Brave) and changes are as simple and quick as if they were in a disposable. The nappies do not need to be cleaned before they are thrown in the bins, you simply roll up and throw in our special compost bin.
Plus, check out this amazing compost – seriously, how cool is it to contribute to something like this? Surely, the planet is happy with us right now.
We are more than happy to field any questions, other centres or parents.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Tētahi ao, Kotahi waatea
One planet, one chance