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Choosing reusable cloth diapers is a big decision that can lead to a rewarding journey for you and your baby. But where do you start? Here are the most commonly asked questions on how to start your cloth diaper journey.

Nicki's Diapers is a family business founded by Nicki and later joined by her husband Jesse. As a husband and wife team, they worked together to ensure the highest quality products while following responsible environmental and social business practices. The company is now located in Akron, Ohio.

How Many Years Does it Take a Diaper to Decompose? Eco-Friendly Diaper Alternatives

As a parent with a baby in diapers, "how long does it take for a diaper to decompose" is probably not your first concern. More immediate issues like the cost of diapers, the comfort of your baby, and the ease of changing them often take precedence. However, when we consider the environmental cost of using disposable diapers, things get a bit more serious.

Most babies will need between 2,500 and 3,000 diapers in their first year alone. Considering this number, if you are using single-use diapers, it'll be pretty costly for you, while also contributing to the enormous amount of trash piling up in landfills. For such reasons, we're going to discuss how many years it takes for a diaper to decompose and a few eco-friendly alternatives for your choice of diapers.

eco-friendly cloth diaper


The Diaper Decomposition Time: How Many Years Does It Take A Diaper To Decompose? 

Before understanding how many years it takes for a diaper to decompose, you’ll need to grasp what decomposition really means. Decomposition is a natural process that happens to every existing thing on earth. When a material or an item undergoes decomposition, its substance breaks down into simpler chemical building blocks and goes back to the soil.

This process takes different amounts of time, depending on the type of material. For biodegradable products, it takes only three to six months to entirely decompose but  500 years or maybe forever for plastics  or maybe even longer. So, do diapers decompose? The answer is…yes, but the diaper decomposition time is around 500 years for a disposable diaper. 

Considering that plastic has only been around since 1907 and we haven't been through enough time to verify, this is just a scientific guess. But the fact that diaper waste makes up about two percent of the total human waste makes this a concerning issue for our environment. That's why we will provide you with some suggestions for alternatives to disposable diapers if you keep reading.

Most babies will need between 2,500 and 3,000 diapers in their first year alone. Given this number, if you are using single-use diapers, it'll be pretty costly for you, while also making an enormous amount of trash piling up in landfills. For such reasons, let's find out how long it takes for a diaper to decompose and a few eco-friendly alternatives for your choice of diapers.

The Unseen Components of Disposable Diapers

Understanding the different components that make a diaper helps you be better informed on how certain types of diapers are treating your baby, and why diapers take many years to decompose.

What Do Disposable Diapers Contain?

Before going into the market, a diaper has gone through quite a few chemical treatments, and the diaperalso contains several chemicals to effectively work. But most companies never share anything about these potentially harmful substances.

A few chemicals we know that exist in diapers include:

  • Tributyltin
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Petroleum
  • Dioxin

While tributyltin helps with preventing bacteria growth, it is a harmful chemical that doesn't degrade and can go back into our food. Volatile organic compounds go into the air we breathe when they're exposed to heat. Petroleum is sometimes added to retain liquid and it poses serious risks to immune function and organ weight. And dioxins are long known to be highly toxic substances that cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems.

Other troublesome substances that can sometimes also be found are dyes, fragrances, and phthalates. Phthalate is a chemical that you should definitely keep your eyes on, as scientific research suggests it causesdetrimental impact on the endocrine system

Such chemicals and diaper components certainly help explain why it takes so long for a diaper to decompose, as most of the time, disposable diapers are not made of environment-friendly materials.


The Impact Of Disposable Diapers On The Environment 

Disposable diapers account for a considerable amount of waste in landfills: before becoming potty trained, a baby probably needs between 5,000 and 6,000 disposable diapers. One environmental report  determined that disposable diapers make up 7 percent of nondurable household waste in landfills, not to mention that these disposable diapers often don't decompose or biodegrade.

It's not just the lengthy diaper decomposition time that's concerning, but also the environmental and health risks associated with disposable diapers. They contain several toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment and can even affect human health, like polymer and methane. As diapers are thrown away into landfills, they become the breeding ground forplenty of pathogens in human waste such as E. coli and Salmonella.

So the concern is not just how long does it take for a diaper to decompose, but also the environmental impact and health risks of using disposable diapers.

The question of biodegradability also comes into play when we look at how long it takes for a diaper to decompose. Biodegradable diapers are designed to decompose faster than traditional diapers, reducing the amount of time they spend in landfills. However, it's important to remember that "biodegradable" doesn't necessarily mean "compostable." To effectively break down, biodegradable diapers need specific conditions that are often not available in landfills, such as access to air and moisture. So, while they're an improvement, they're not a great solution.

Are Biodegradable Diapers A Better Option For The Environment?

Now you might ask if there is a way you can take better care of your child while helping the environment. One answer is biodegradable diapers. Although they may not be the absolute best option, they are the most eco-friendly, fully disposable option at the moment. Scientists are working hard to minimize the impact of diapers on the environment while delivering a safe and comfortable experience for babies in diapers. 

Biodegradable (or compostable) diapers tend to use more sustainable materials, which involve more eco-friendly production methods. Some green diaper companies do invest more effort into making their diapers somewhat less harmful to the earth in different ways; for example, using nature-based materials, sustainably-harvested wood pulp, and keeping the diapers free of toxic chemicals and fragrance.

However, even though biodegradable diapers are a step in the right direction, if they're not disposed of properly, they might take just as long to decompose as disposable diapers. It's also important to note that not all eco-friendly diapers are entirely biodegradable. So, while they're generally better for your child due to the safer materials used in their production, their impact on the environment can still be significant.

What we know is that they tend to be safer and better for your child, in terms of the chemicals and materials used in the diaper-making process.

Cloth Diapers: How They Shorten Diaper Decomposition Time

The most important thing to keep in mind when searching for alternatives to single-use diapers is the reusable nature of diaper alternatives. Reusable cloth diapers help us discard less waste into the environment and keep our babies safe from coming in direct contact with potentially harmful chemicals, in comparison with one-time use diapers. 


eco-friendly cloth diapers


Whether you're parents-to-be just starting to look for information on cloth diapers like the Apple cheecks cloth diapers, or parents who are searching for more eco-friendly options, the below suggestions will be of great help to you. 

Natural Diapers Decompose Faster

The name of this diaper type explains itself. Natural diapers are made of natural materials, typically plant-based ones. These natural alternatives often involve fewer chemicals and toxic ingredients in the making process, and they are also more likely to decompose faster than disposable ones. 


baby is wearing an eco-friendly cloth diaper


The most common plant-based material for natural diapers is bamboo. Newborn snap bamboo overnight fitted cloth diapers are often smooth to the baby's skin, comfortable, and cost-effective. They are chemical-free and helpful in preventing the growth of harmful and foul-smelling bacteria. Plus, bamboo diapers are biodegradable, and they will eventually disappear even if not in favorable conditions.

Hybrid Diapers

The next item we recommend is hybrid diapers. This type is a bit of both worlds: hybrid diapers include a reusable diaper cover with a disposable diaper insert. The diaper insert can be made from different materials, and you can totally go for natural materials that are safer for your child. 

Each time you need to change your baby's diaper, all you need to do is replace the insert. This will create less waste for the environment than entire disposable diapers, while giving you the option to keep your baby away from toxic ingredients that may exist in other types of single-piece disposable diapers.

Cloth Diapers: A Friend to the Environment and Your Wallet

Cloth diapers are a favorite option for many parents. They are a safer choice for both your baby and the environment. These diapers are better for your baby's skin while discharging no carbon waste to the surroundings on a day-to-day basis.


a kid is wearing a cloth diaper


Cloth diapers are a favorite option for many parents. They are a safer choice for both your baby and the environment. These diapers are better for your baby's skin while discharging no carbon waste to the surroundings on a day-to-day basis.

Cloth diapers do consume some environmental resources in their initial production and in their washing, but those impacts are factored across hundreds or even thousands of uses for each diaper. Cloth diapers are still a better choice compared to disposable ones, in the way that they help reduce the total number of diapers disposed of every year. These impacts are magnified if you use cloth diapers on multiple children, passing them along as each child potty trains. This significantly reduces the amount of waste each diaper contributes, as well as the overall environmental footprint of diaper use. 

While it's true that cloth diapers require resources for their production and washing, these impacts are spread over hundreds or even thousands of uses per diaper. If you're planning on having more children, the environmental impact decreases further as the diapers are reused, making cloth diapers an excellent alternative to disposables.

Although many of these natural options are biodegradable, if not handled correctly, they are still a huge amount of baby waste. For such reasons,cloth diapers remain the most eco-friendly and economical choice for many parents. The fact that cloth diapers are reusable also means less waste to the environment and less money spent on diapers.

Moreover, cloth diapers have a considerably shorter diaper decomposition time when compared to disposable diapers since they are reusable and not designed to end up in landfills.

While the question "how many years does it take a diaper to decompose" may seem daunting, the answer isn't to be feared but to serve as motivation. There are numerous eco-friendly alternatives available, and each of us can contribute to minimizing the environmental impact of diaper use. We hope that our information helps with your choice of diapers. Our children are worth the extra effort, and so is our planet.