This study seeks to investigate three areas in which the impact of disposable nappies can be reduced – bleaching pulp, using recycled pulp, the option of compostable nappies. Each of the three areas has a thorough literature review, detailing the previous studies that have been done around these topics. The environmental impact of disposable nappies will be assessed based on ten categories, as defined by Simapro® software. Data obtained from Simapro® provides an environmental impact profile for comparisons of processes such as bleached pulp production and unbleached pulp production.
Limitations of this study lie in with the validity of recycled pulping data – hardwood newsprint pulp is different to softwood fluff pulp, as used in nappies. Furthermore, some alternatives to disposable nappies, such as Weenees Eco Nappy System, which uses Weenees Zero Waste Eco Flushable Disposable Pads and pilcher pants, has not been included in the scope of this study. But it has been suggested in the FURTHER WORK section, as a possible option to with a reduced impact to disposables.
Several conclusions were made from all three areas of this study. Unbleached pulp should be considered for use in disposable nappies, as a means of reducing their environmental impact, in particular the marine aquatic ecotoxicity by 35.58%, compared to bleached pulp. An increase in SAP in disposable nappies would be a possible solution to the reduction in the absorbency levels of the unbleached pulp.
Recycled pulp is not beneficial to be used in disposable nappies. Despite the reduction in the demand for virgin fibres, and thus timber in general, it has a greater environmental impact than using virgin fibres, and recycled pulp is of a poorer quality.
The currently available compostable nappies does not provide a realistic, fully compostable alternative to disposable nappies. Further developments in the technology of fully compostable, easy to use nappy systems are required.
The environmental impact of disposable nappies should be reduced by using unbleached pulp, and additional SAP; and no recycled pulp and compostable nappy systems are currently not a realistic alternative.