A cloth diaper rebate?


$100 per kid could encourage greener choice, says resident

A Morinville mom wants town council to give out a cash rebate to encourage more parents to use cloth diapers.

Morinville resident Jill Ladouceur spoke to town council at committee of the whole Tuesday night to propose a cloth diaper rebate.

A mother of five, Ladouceur (who is not related to Coun. Rob Ladouceur) has been using cloth diapers on her kids for the last four years, having been inspired by a listing for the diapers on Kijiji.

“I started mostly because of the impact (disposable diapers) have on the environment,” she said.

Most kids go through about 3,800 disposable diapers a year, Ladouceur noted, citing research from various Canadian studies. Assuming each full diaper weighs a pound, that works out to about 11.4 tons of waste per kid over three years, which costs about $559 to dump at the Roseridge landfill.

Environment Canada says those diapers can sit in landfills for centuries before they fully degrade, Ladouceur said.

“If your parents used disposable diapers on you, your diapers are still in the landfill.”

Cloth diapers produce zero landfill waste, and you need just 24 to diaper a kid for three years, Ladouceur said.

“Currently we’re on our second child with the same diapers.”

Ladouceur said she spent about $550 to buy cloth diapers for her family, compared to about $1,200 a year per kid for disposables. The diapers do require about $8 a month more water than disposables for washing, but that was equivalent to an extra load of laundry.

Morinville is looking to become greener and could do so by encouraging cloth diaper use, Ladouceur said.

She wanted town council to follow the lead of many Quebec and Ontario communities and offer parents a cloth diaper rebate. She suggested a rebate similar to the one offered by Sudbury, Ont. of $100 per kid per family, with residents getting $20 for every $100 they spend on cloth diapers. The rebate could come through a reduction to a home’s waste disposal fees.

A family that switched one kid to cloth diapers because of this rebate would prevent about 11.4 tons of landfill waste and save the town a net $459 over three years, Ladouceur said.

In an email, Mayor Lisa Holmes said the town should definitely take a look at a cloth diaper rebate, as many communities out east had similar programs. Residents also seemed opposed to less frequent garbage pickup (a move thought to encourage more waste diversion and reduce costs) in part due to disposable diapers.

“I am always interested in new and innovative ways to promote waste minimization.”

Eco slam-dunk?

Cloth diapers aren’t necessarily a slam-dunk for the environment compared to disposables, said Christina Seidel of the Recycling Council of Alberta.

“The problem is there’s so many parameters.”

Life cycle analyses of diapers done by Franklin Associates in the U.S. and the UK’s Environment Agency found that using cloth diapers instead of disposables would decrease landfill waste but increase water use and greenhouse gas emissions. As those emissions come almost entirely from washing and drying, cloth could result in fewer emissions than disposable if residents used energy-saving techniques such as line-drying.

The success of a diaper rebate would depend on its implementation, Seidel said. Diaper reuse would have to be aggressively promoted and convenient so it becomes the socially accepted thing to do.

Seidel noted that people got by just fine with cloth before disposable diapers were invented, and that disposables were a growing part of household waste. Philosophically, using cloth makes sense for waste reduction.

“It’s like you’re really going that extra mile to reduce waste.”

Ladouceur said she loves using cloth diapers, particularly since they prevent rashes on her son’s sensitive skin.

“My baby’s skin is protected, it’s covered in cloth, and I’m leaving my green footprint for his future.”


About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.