WEN UK (Womans Enviromental Network) Press release 4/7/07

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WEN UK (Womans Enviromental Network) Press release 4/7/07

Post by Stacey » Tue Jul 10, 2007 2:44 pm

http://www.wen.org.uk/general_pages/New ... 4.7.07.htm

Media Statement

4 July 2007
Stop talking rubbish on nappies

Responding to coverage of an answer by former Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw to a Parliamentary Written Question on 29/6/07

Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw missed an opportunity to help parents cut waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reinforced a dangerous myth when he answered a question from Madeleine Moon MP about washable nappies last Friday1.

Parents can prevent waste going to landfill and reduce the global warming impact of their nappy use by a quarter by choosing washables - known as real nappies - despite reports to the contrary.

And Government funding for a three-year project to support real nappy schemes was not a waste of money but helped thousands of parents save money and waste by using real nappies and diverted 26,000 tonnes of disposable nappy waste from landfill6.

Kay Wagland, WEN's Real Nappy Project Officer said: "Sadly the Minister was talking rubbish. It's a shame he didn't get his facts straight, rather than recycling the dangerous myth put about by the flawed and discredited Environment Agency report of two years ago that there's little environmental difference between washable and disposable nappies2.

"Both the Agency and the Minister have missed a golden opportunity to tell parents their best options for reducing the overall impact of their nappy choices. By doing so they have confused parents and actually encouraged more damaging behaviour.

"Washable nappies are clearly better for the environment, even when you take account of the energy and water used to wash them. Using real nappies puts parents in control. With a good washing routine parents can minimise the environmental impact of their babies' nappies, reduce waste and save themselves money."

The Minister should have known that the Agency has conceded that the report was flawed and, as a consequence of criticisms, is conducting a review that will be more sensitive to the wide choice of real nappies available and the potential they offer to parents to reduce their impact.

The 2005 report based key assumptions on flawed data, which caused it to overestimate the impact of washing nappies. It also ignored the potential of modern, fitted cloth nappies, to reduce impacts.

WEN found that, even on the basis of the flawed data in the report, parents can reduce global warming impacts by 24% more than the report concluded. A 17% reduction in global warming impacts can be achieved by using an A rated washing machine and following manufacturers' guidance to wash at 60oC. With A rated washing machine sales at near saturation by early 2005 many real nappy users are already achieving this saving. Parents only need use 24 real nappies, rather than the 47 the LCA assumes, reducing their global warming impact by another 6.9%.

This advantage can be even greater if organic cotton, hemp or bamboo nappies are chosen and locally supplied and if nappies are used on a second or third child.

Mr Bradshaw's reply drew media coverage critical of the Government's funding of the Real Nappy Campaign, a three-year project by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the agency tasked with implementing the Government's waste minimisation strategy.

Kay Wagland said: "Because the real nappy market is still comparatively small (7) and because there are so many choices, parents need help to find the best nappies for them and their baby. WRAP's Campaign made information and support much easier to find and interest in real nappies mushroomed as a result.

"The funding was always due to end this year but it's a shame that it isn't continuing because the demand from parents - and health professionals and local authority waste officers - is still there.

"Arguably the Real Nappy Campaign would have been even more successful if the Environment Agency hadn't put out its contradictory report half way through the programme."

WEN is aware of exasperation of parents who are experienced with real nappies and local authority waste minimisation officers who have investigated real nappy facts to help reduce their nappy waste mountain, due to the spread of misinformation.

Gone are the days of soaking and boiling terries, folding and pins. Technology has caught up here as everywhere and low temperature washes of shaped nappies with poppers or Velcro in new, soft and absorbent fabrics are the norm.


Media contacts: Kay Wagland, Real Nappy Project Officer or Liz Sutton, Communications Co-ordinator 020 7481 9004 or 07973 323789 (Liz Sutton only)

Notes to editors:

1. Madeleine Moon MP (Lab, Bridgend) asked a written parliamentary question on 29 June 2007 about what assessment the Minister had made of the potential contribution of reusable nappies to reductions in landfill material. See Hansard, Column 882W, 29/06/07.
2. Ben Bradshaw was quoting the conclusion of the Life Cycle Assessment of Disposable and Reusable Nappies in the UK (LCA) published in 2005 by the Environment Agency, that there was 'no significant difference' between the environmental impacts of disposables and reusables.
3. WEN was a member of the Advisory Panel to the Environment Agency when it commissioned the study. Other panellists included two representatives of the disposable nappy industry, one representative of a cloth nappy company and one representative of the Real Nappy Association, a voluntary organisation which campaigned with WEN to raise awareness about real nappies. However, the RNA rep withdrew two years before the report was published and WEN rejected the report when it was published as it felt much of its advice and suggestions had been ignored, that the data and analysis were seriously misleading and that the conclusion missed the findings of the report.
The Environment Agency study was partly based on a survey of 2000 disposable nappy using parents but less than 200 washable nappy users. Poor assumptions it made included:

1. a) an average parent will buy 47 cloth nappies (this was based on results of two respondents to the survey and accounts for 13.8% of the assumed global warming impact). Parents will normally need 24 nappies or less;
2. b) 10% iron nappies (sic!)
3. c) 19% tumble dry. It is recommended not to tumble dry, not only due to energy consumption, but also as it shortens the life of nappies;
4. d) use of older inefficient washing machines
5. e) a third of all nappy washes are at 90oC
6. f) using price of disposables as an indicator of energy consumed in retail and transport. This means that manufacturers need only reduce their price to reduce their global warming impact. Leading manufacturers have had a price war for some years.

4. In March 2007, the Local Government Association called for disposable nappy manufacturers to contribute to the £67 million cost of dealing with nappy waste going to landfill.
5. The Daily Mail reported 3/07/07 that Mr Bradshaw delivered a speech to WRAP staff last year and said that in future it might be possible to get rid of nappies by leaving them in garden compost bins. The average nappy-wearing child will get through over 40 nappies in a week. It seems unlikely that a garden compost heap will be able to cope with that quantity of sewage filled nappies.
6. WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) is a major UK programme established to promote resource efficiency. Its particular focus is on creating stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products and removing the barriers to waste minimisation, reuse and recycling. A not-for-profit company, WRAP is backed by government funding from Defra and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. WRAP is currently running fifteen programmes. The Real Nappy Campaign was one element of WRAP's programme on waste minimisation. It focused on helping parents to make an informed choice about nappies and increasing the availability of real nappies. WRAP reported that the campaign diverted more than 26,000 tonnes of nappy waste from landfill as a result of its direct support for local schemes in England. Information about this and WRAP's other programmes can be found at www.wrap.org.uk.
7. Accurate information on the size of the real nappy market is hard to find but WEN has evidence that 7-14% of parents use real nappies some or all of the time. The number of real nappy companies, agents and laundry services has increased considerably in the last five years and support for Real Nappy Week, the national awareness-raising week co-ordinated by WEN since 2000 grew from 116 organisations in 2000 to more than 850 supporters and 90% of all UK local authorities in 2006.
8. WEN is a national membership charity that campaigns on environment and health issues from a women's perspective. For more on its work, see http://www.wen.org.uk/ . Our response to the EA report at the time is available from the home page of the site.
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