Council calls for parents to use cloth nappies

Councils promoting eco-friendly living want women to stop using tampons and parents to use cloth nappies. While workshops explaining changes have banned gendered language to make a “safe space”. By Susie O'Brien

Victorian councils are seeking new ways to induce parents to switch to washable, resusable nappies, including paying them up to $150 a year to ditch disposables.

Twelve Melbourne councils are conducting a joint survey to work out how to implement a reusable nappy program for residents. Reusable nappy sales have surged in recent years as products are easier to use and cheaper than disposables, but the idea of washing dirty nappies is holding many parents back.

The study is led by the City of Monash and includes Maribyrnong, Bayside, Boroondara and Stonnington Councils, among others. The aim is to reduce the use of disposable nappy waste, which accounts for around one tenth of bin contents.

Similar programs in other areas include recycled nappy hiring, rebates for recycled nappy purchases and information sessions for parents.

Modern cloth nappies

City of Monash Mayor Stuart James said the councils have asked their communities to provide feedback on the barriers to using reusable nappies and nappy liners. “A draft feasibility report is being presented this week and the Councils are reviewing the information and feedback to understand grant application potential to implement the program,” he said. It comes as six councils– Banyule, Cardinia, Casey, Mornington Pensinsula, Wyndham and Whittlesea are offering rebates of up to $150 a year to parents who use cloth nappies.

Casey Council’s scheme, which offers up to $100 for reusable nappies, wipes and breast pads, was so successful that it has been suspended until July.

Belinda Jennings, founder of website Mum Central, said reusable nappy programs were a “great initiative if executed properly”. “Cloth nappies have come such a long way over the years, and are considerably easier to manage on a day to day basis than many realise,” she said. She said such schemes “could be instrumental in helping new parents take a positive step towards a more sustainable nappy solution”.

Pinky McKay, author and lactation consultant, said rebates were a great idea considering the environmental impact of disposable nappies. “Parents can choose when and whether to use cloth or disposables or a mix of both,” she said. “For instance, exhausted new parents might choose to use disposables in the early days then change to cloth as they can manage. Or use cloth most of the time but use disposables if they need a break some days,” Ms McKay said. “There is no need for guilt when incentives are offered without pressure.”

It comes as each child generates around 700kg of disposable nappy waste and around two billion disposable nappies end up in landfill each year in Australia.