#BinYourNappy campaign launched amid nappy disposal confusion

A new campaign encouraging parents in north London to dispose of used nappies in their general waste bin has been launched today (4 July) by the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) after one in 10 UK parents admitted to putting used nappies in with the household recycling.

Entitled #BinYourNappy, the new campaign aims to tackle the issue of the improper disposal of used nappies, with research conducted by NLWA revealing that tonnes of recycling collected from households are regularly thrown away as a result of it being contaminated with so many nappies, costing north London taxpayers £1.5 million every year.

The contamination also means that recycling centre workers are forced to remove dirty nappies by hand to allow for the rest of the recycling to be processed.

The NLWA research showed that there is widespread confusion about correct nappy disposal, as 10 per cent of parents think that nappies should not go in the general waste bin. Of those who threw their nappies in the recycling, more than a third believe that the packaging shows the ‘recycling logo’, whilst a fifth say they did so because they are termed ‘disposable’.

Confusion was apparent regarding nappies marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’, with half of all respondents believing that these could be recycled in some form. However, as nappies are made up of a mixture of different materials, it is not currently possible to recycle any type of nappy through mainstream council recycling services.

The research also revealed that the ‘Green Dot’ symbol (two intertwined arrows forming a circle) has been commonly misunderstood. Of those surveyed, 55 per cent thought that this meant that the outer packaging could be recycled, and 13 per cent thought that this meant that either clean or used nappies could be recycled. In fact, the symbol only means that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe, and is therefore no indication of whether or not the packaging can be recycled.

As part of its campaign, NLWA has produced a suite of materials to help parents understand how they should be disposing of their nappy waste, including an animation set to the tune of the nursery rhyme ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’, as well as another video detailing the scale of nappy waste contamination at one recycling facility.

Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Chair of NLWA, Councillor Clyde Loakes, said: “It’s hard to overestimate the scale of this unsavoury problem. We know parents want to do the right thing. That’s why we’re asking parents to put used nappies in the general waste bin. Contamination of recycling damages the environment, is costly for taxpayers and leaves recycling centre staff having to remove soiled nappies by hand.”

“Our research shows that there is huge confusion about labelling on packs. We’re calling on nappy manufacturers to come on board and make things clearer for their customers and help parents’ understanding.”

“The estimated cost of dealing with contaminated recycling in the next year in north London alone is nearly £1.5 million – money which I’m sure most taxpayers would prefer was spent elsewhere.”

Difficult to deal with

Disposable nappies are made up of several composite materials, including a plastic outer layer combined with inner layers of a non-woven polymer textile, fluff pulp and sodium polyacrylate or superabsorbent polymer (SAP). This complex structure means that they are extremely difficult to deal with and are not currently recyclable in the UK.

Earlier this year, a bill was launched by MP David Linden to promote the use of reusable nappies, aiming to reduce the number of disposable nappies being thrown away.

However, the convenience of single-use nappies means that they continue to be the top-choice for parents. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the UK disposes of around three billion single-use nappies a year, which is around two to three per cent of all household waste.

Consumer confusion

With three quarters of parents perplexed by the labelling on nappy packaging, it is clear that vague language such as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ is leaving customers in the dark about what can be recycled.

The Resources and Waste Strategy, released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in December, highlighted the issues of consumer confusion with proposals to improve the consistency of recycling collections across England.

To tackle this confusion, NLWA’s #BinYourNappy campaign is calling on manufacturers to ensure that correct nappy disposal is clearer on packaging and through marketing communications. NLWA is working with health services, toddler play centres and parenting groups, and have created an animation and video to help spread the message to parents.

You can find out more about NLWA’s #BinYourNappy campaign on the authority’s Wise Up To Waste website.

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