Figuur 1: Een algemeen levenscyclusschema. Citeerfout: sluiten </ref>ontbreekt voor <ref>tag

Wegwerpluiers zijn samengesteld uit verschillende hout- en kunststofproducten. De samenstelling van een wegwerpluier kan worden geschat op 43% houtpulp (pluispulp), 27% superabsorberend polymeer (SAP), 10% polypropyleen (PP), 13% polyethyleen (PE) en 7% tapes, elastieken en kleefstoffen (Figuur 2; [1] )

Overzicht levenscyclus

De LCA voor wegwerpluiers moet eerst rekening houden met de impact van hulpbronnen door de productie van luiermaterialen, die uitputtend kunnen worden. Figuur 3 is een schematisch diagram dat een wegwerpluier LCA weergeeft die begint met de vijf basisluiercomponenten. Alle grondstofcategorieën zijn nodig voor de productie van de luiercomponenten en voor de assimilatie van de luiers uit de componenten. Middelen moeten ook worden verantwoord na de productie van luiers: verpakking, verzending, verkoop, gebruik en verwijdering. Afhankelijk van de regionale middelen voor afvalbeheer, kunnen er verschillende soorten verwijderingsmethoden beschikbaar zijn.

Figuur 3: Levenscyclus van wegwerpluiers, [2] )


Disposable and compostable diapers consume less water than reusable cloth diapers. Production processes are designed to minimize water consumption in manufacturing. A breakdown of the water consumption in the life cycle analysis for one child is shown in Table 1, the data assumes there are 4.6 changes a day until the child is 2.5 years of age.

Table 1: Water uses associated with disposable diapers[3]

ProcessWater Use (kg)
Retail and Transport to Retail135
Consumer Transport Home1
End of Life Waste Management47

While the production of disposable diapers requires more energy than production of reusable types, disposable diapers do not need to be laundered. Laundering the reusable diapers requires additional energy for washing and drying that disposables do not, unless they are line dried.[4]

Energy Consumption

Energy consumption for disposable diapers is tied into the coal and crude oil used to create the energy needed to harvest the raw materials, manufacture, transport, and disposal of the diapers. Table 2 shows the amounts of crude oil and coal used in one life cycle stage.

Table 2: The coal and crude oil use for the life cycle of disposable diapers used for one child until the age of 2.5 years assuming 4.6 diaper changes were made per day.[3]

ProcessCoal (kg)Crude oil (kg)
Raw materials, transport and nappy manufacture60.993
Retail and transport to retail and to home7.614
End-of-life waste management-14.71

Raw Materials Consumption

Modern forest management processes include measures of sustainability such as replanting. Also, diaper wood pulp may come from forest waste products such as forest thinnings and sawmill waste.

Here is a breakdown of forest product usage:[1]

  • Of total timber harvest 47% is forest products (non fuel products).
  • Of forest products, 30% is pulpwood product.
  • Of pulpwood product, 9% is hygiene product.
  • Of hygiene product, 2% is diaper product.

The above breakdown can be used to estimate that diapers use 0.05% of total wood product (fuel and non-fuel).

Solid Waste

Solid waste has been the primary historical focus for disposable diaper environmental impact. Not only is the diaper product being thrown away, but untreated feces and urine as well.

Disposable diapers produce more solid waste than reusable diapers. Even if excreta are flushed before disposal of the diaper, the diaper itself still goes to the landfill. While most disposable diapers can decompose readily within five months, as they are just wood products and cotton, the absorbent gels and plastic components do not. Compostable disposable diapers however, generally decompose completely within five months of disposal.

Compostables, Another Viable Alternative?

Compostable diapers have just emerged into the commercial market, and offer another potential alternative to both disposable and reusable diapers. Compostable diapers are still easily disposed of, similar to conventional disposable diapers, and do not need laundering; this makes them very attractive to consumers. However, compostable diapers are not without their shortfalls. While compostable diapers do not generally last more than five months in a landfill, they require even more raw product consumption than conventional disposables.[4]

Cloth Diapers: Home Washed and Diaper Service Diapers

Cloth diapers differ from disposables in that they are intended to be reused, thus cloth diapers are viewed as the more environmentally conscious alternative than disposables. Cloth diapers are usually made with cotton or terry cloth. The water use and energy consumption associated with cloth diapers are in different phases in the life cycle than that of a disposable diaper. Cloth diapers are washed either at home or sent out to be washed commercially. Where available, information on the life cycle differences between these two use patterns of reusable diapers will be addressed.

Life Cycle Overview

Figure 4: A reusable diaper life cycle,[2]

The life cycle analysis of a reusable diaper starts with the raw materials and extends into the manufacture, transport, purchase, use, and final disposal.

Water Consumption

Due to the need to launder between uses, water consumption is much higher over the life of reusable diapers. A break down of the water uses associated with cloth diapers is in Table 3.

Table 3: Water uses associated with cloth diapers washed at home and commercially for one child until the age of 2.5 years[3]

ProcessHome Washed Use (kg)Commercially Washed Use (kg)
Laundry Detergent21,900290
Mains Water Supply15,30016,100

Energy Consumption

Energy consumption is in general considerably less for reusable diapers when compared with disposable and compostable diapers. The primary source of energy usage associated with reusable diapers is from laundering, where disposables are primarily from manufacturing processes. Table 4 shows the break down of energy use for reusable diapers.

Table 4: Energy differences between home and commercially washed diapers[3]

ProcessHome WashedCommercially Washed
Coal (kg)Crude oil (kg)Coal (kg)Crude oil (kg)
Raw materials, transport, and nappy manufacture193522
Electricity use1183792

It should be noted: if individuals launder their own disposables and line dry, rather than using a gas or electric drier, energy consumption would be reduced.

Raw Materials Consumption

Raw materials consumption for reusable diapers is generally lower than that of disposables. The primary component of reusable diapers is cotton; cotton use for cloth diapers is slightly higher for commercially laundered diapers than those laundered at home (diapers are replaced more often when laundered commercially).

Solid Waste

While the amounts of excreta are not different between reusable and disposable diapers, cloth diapers produce considerably less solid waste (from lack of being discarded in a landfill) than disposable types. Reusable diapers are often used for a period of two and a half before disposal; generally the amount of time a child spends in diapers. Commercially laundered cloth diapers have a shorter span of use, and therefore produce more waste than home washed.


To emphasize how complicated an LCA can be, and how the "golden" solution does not emerge for a more favorable choice between cloth and reusable diapers Table 4 shows the different impact topic comparisons.

Table 4: Life-Cycle Analysis of Disposable and Reusable Diapers (based on weekly diaper needs)[2]

Resource CategoryDisposable DiaperReusable Diaper
Raw Materials Consumption (lbs)25.303.60
Energy Consumption (Btu)23,290.0078,890.00
Water Consumption (gal)23.60144.00
Atmospheric Emissions (lbs)0.090.86
Waste Water Effluents (lbs)0.010.12
Process Solid Waste (lbs)2.023.13
Post-Consumer Waste (lbs)22.180.24
Total Costs ($/week)10.317.47-16.92

Infinite statements representing the above table can be made to represent the relationships between diaper type and resource impact. Here are two broad statements:

Disposable diapers create less atmospheric emissions, waste water effluents, and solid waste (feces processing) than reusable diapers.

Reusable diapers use less raw material for production and create less post consumer waste than disposables.

These statements do not necessarily present a clear solution to the question, "Which diaper type is better for the environment?". Assessing which resource is more valuable, or more sensitive to impact is difficult but suggested for further analysis.


  1. Jump up to: 1.0 1.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named EDANA
  2. Jump up to: 2.0 2.1 2.2 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named PG
  3. Jump up to: 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Aumonier, Simon and Collins, M.; "Life Cycle Assessment of Disposable and Reusable Nappies in the UK", Environmental Agency, May 2005.
  4. Jump up to: 4.0 4.1 Olive, Rachel; "A Life Cycle Analysis of Disposable, Reusable and Compostable Nappies Under Brisbane Conditions", Dept. of Chemical Engineering, University of Queensland, 2004.
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.