I had big plans to use cloth diapers before the kids were born. But then I bought an emergency pack of Huggies, and then I got overwhelmed with parenting and just kept buying the Huggies. But I've been feeling quite guilty about it. We started out using 16 or so diapers a day, and now use about 8 a day. Lots of tonnage of diapers go out to landfills every week in the trash around here.
So a friend from church convinced me to try gDiapers, a flushable diaper product. It has a washable cloth cover and snap-in plastic liner which is similar to what you would use with cloth. Then it has a flushable insert to absorb everything.
What is the stick, you ask? That is your "swish stick" that you use to swish around the flushable insert in the toilet. So today was our experiment day. I bought a starter pack seen above that has two cloth diaper covers, four snap-in plastic liners and ten flushable inserts. That is enough for one day for us. They are in them right now, so we will see how they last overnight.
So far, the cloth cover is soft and fits snug. The inserts are way too big to just put in the cover, they are about twice the size. I tried to fold it over in the front (for boys, as they say) and it eventually got all scrunched down in the crotch. There is a plastic snap in liner inside the cloth cover, so nothing leaked and the inserts do seem to absorb a lot. I was worried about re-using the covers, like they would be wet around the edges and yucky to put back on the kids, but they kept dry and clean. The next time I did not fold the insert down in front, I just shoved the corners in and it was just bulky in the middle. This seemed to work better, but it does make your kids have enormous little bums. The kids seemed not to notice nor care about the different diaper system, so I guess it is plenty comfortable.
No, they aren't on backwards; they actually do fastened in the back with velcro. Putting them backwards is a good idea because my kids will sometimes play with the front tabs on the disposables and take them off.
One thing that is good about flushing is that you get rid of the odor in your house. I am anti-diaper genie, because making little diaper sausages encased in plastic just seems even worse for the environment. I dispose of my diapers in just a regular pail with an air freshener nearby, but I know there is always odor. Flushing takes care of that problem.
Now, the problems:
Okay, so the flushing is a pain. I say this knowing full well that if you want to get away from putting disposables in a landfill, you are going to have to compromise on convenience. They suggest you move your diaper table into your bathroom so you'll be right there, but my bathroom is not big enough. So I essentially have to diaper two kids and then sort of set the dirty flush-able to the side and come back later to flush it. You can't just drop it in the toilet, you have to rip open the outer covering and dump out the inner filler into the toilet. Then you use the swishstick to sort of break that up, and then you drop in the rest. Number 2 material seems to just sit on the outside of the covering and you have to dump that in as well. It clogged my toilet the first time I did it. I ended up flushing four times to get two inserts down. The next time I really, really swished and let it sit for a moment and disintegrate before I flushed, and this time there were no clogs, but it took forever. I always usually diaper the kids on a schedule right before they eat one after the other. (Unless there is a major blowout, then that is an extra time). So, it is hard to schedule in time to do all this flushing when the kids are ready to eat and I'm rushing around with them.
The other problem is that the flush-able inserts come 32 to a pack for about $15. This will only last me four days and the Huggies are way cheaper when I buy in bulk. Though I suppose way more costly to the environment.
The flushing is the major drawback, but it might be easier than washing a bunch of cloth diapers. Flushing uses water, no detergent, and puts biohazardous waste where it belongs, instead of a landfill. I think this would be a lot easier to use with only one baby, but I say that about everything, don't I? Also, if you could manage to change the baby in your bathroom and flush right there, that would be a major plus.
I guess these are popular in Australia, but just hitting the market in the U.S. I have only found them at my local natural foods store. For me, with twins and with the fact that I don't drive, the 32 pack business is a bit scary. My store only has one or two packs in stock, and that is only four to eight days worth for me. So I'd be panicked that I would always be running out with no means to get more.
On the plus side for me, I think it gave me a little more idea of what using cloth diapers would be like. A good compromise for me might be a diaper service. There is the whole detergents vs. landfill controversy, but to me, cloth diapers seem to make more sense environmentally. Also, now that the kids are older, they need to probably start feeling the difference between wet and dry a bit more. Cloth diapers make sense in that department as well.
As for gDiapers, it is a good idea and might be an answer for some families, but I don't think I can hack the flushing process. But I really like the diaper covers, and might consider using them with cloth. Try them if you think this might be a good, environmentally sound option for you. They are available online at the gDiapers site.
Overnight Update: Naim's diaper made it through the night just fine. Aaron's flushable got all dis-arranged and bunched up and caused a big leaky mess. As far as effectiveness and convenience, nothing tops disposables. But I still might try cloth...next week, after I do all this laundry from this week's experiment.
5/2/05 Update: I've written an update here, since this post has gotten so many hits from people searching out diaper options.