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safer disposable nappy cheat sheet

Disposable Nappies: A Hello Charlie Cheat Sheet

Currently being updated as at July 2021

My eldest son was in cloth nappies full time. We had a great routine going, but we couldn’t work out why our darling baby wouldn’t sleep at night until we realized that the feel of a wet nappy woke him up. We persevered, but eventually, zombie-eyed, we gave in and put him in a disposable at night.

Many of us use disposable nappies, even fully committed cloth nappy users. Sometimes, it’s just easier to use a disposable nappy – when you’re ill, if you’re travelling, or when your baby goes to childcare.

Whatever your reason for using disposables is, it makes sense to choose a nappy that’s better for your baby, and better for the environment. Eco nappies used to have a reputation for having the feel and absorbency of a cardboard box, but that's definitely not true any more. Our top pick, Bambo Nature, not only scores well on the ethical, ingredients and environmental scores, but also scores consistently well for both comfort and leakproof.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to compare disposable nappies as it is to compare baby lotions or baby wipes. Manufacturers don’t have to disclose all their ingredients, and many won’t tell you even if you ask very nicely.

eco disposable nappies reviews

Disposable Nappy Top Picks

The top picks are the only brands with independent, cradle to grave eco certifications. They're also great performers!

  1. Bambo Nature
  2. Moltex
  3. Muumi

Better than the supermarket brands, with lots of eco features, but without cradle grave certifications (in alphabetical order):

  1. Comfy Koalas
  2. Eco by Naty
  3. Ecoriginals
  4. Green Kids Co. (coming soon)
  5. Joonya
  6. Noopii
  7. Panda Eco (Luv Me)
  8. Rascal +  Friends Eco
  9. Tooshies by TOM
  10. Wonder Eco (coming soon)

Mainstream nappies:

  1. Aldi Mamia nappies
  2. Baby Love
  3. Cub Nappies
  4. Happy Little Campers
  5. Huggies nappies
  6. Little One's
  7. Lovekins

Ingredients in Disposable Nappies

Because so many manufacturers refuse to disclose what is in their nappies, it’s almost impossible to find out all the different chemicals in some nappies so you can make an informed choice. For this reason, I’d encourage you to choose a nappy with an independent, whole of life, eco certification.

I also have a rule of thumb on buying personal products – unless the manufacturer specifically tells you that their product does not contain a harmful ingredient, assume it’s there (within reason - you'll need to use your common sense). Sometimes you’ll have to ask the question, because there’s only so much space on a pack. However, if you want to avoid a particular ingredient, go and check out the manufacturer’s website, and ask questions. If they don’t answer you, assume the worst!

What's in a disposable nappy? I've got a whole article about it here.

What to look for in a disposable nappy:

  • Chlorine free
  • Fragrance free
  • Lotion free
  • Phthalate free

Certifications

I've been talking about the importance of independent certifications for years, and it's good to see that more and more brands are getting certified. But! There's always a but, isn't there?

All certifications are not equal. The gold standard is an independent eco certification, preferably a government run one, that looks at the life cycle of the nappy. Many independent certifications only look at one aspect of the nappy, for example, the wood pulp. But a nappy is made up of many parts, and as the whole of the nappy is going on to your baby, I think it's important to feel confident about the whole nappy.

It's no coincidence that my three top picks all have life cycle certifications.

Why is the "Cradle to Grave" impact so important?

The cradle to grave, or life cycle analysis, looks at the whole product life cycle. It starts with how the raw materials are grown or made, and how they're processed. It looks at the manufacturing processes, and the emissions produced during manufacture. It looks at what happens to the waste produced during manufacture, the product packaging, and the transport of the product to the user. And finally, it looks at how the product is actually used and then disposed of.

Many 'eco' nappies are focused only on disposal. Yet as the Nordic Swan Ecolabel points out, up to 80% of a nappy's environmental impact is all about the raw materials and processing. I've written before about why biodegradability is not what makes a nappy eco, so I won't go into it again here.

But if you're serious about reducing your eco footprint, you need to consider a nappy's cradle to grave impact.

Other independent certifications

I've been talking about the importance of independent certifications for years, and it's good to see that more and more brands are getting certified. But! There's always a but, isn't there?

All certifications are not equal. The gold standard is an independent eco certification, preferably a government run one, that looks at the life cycle of the nappy. A nappy is made up of many parts, and as the whole of the nappy is going on to your baby, I think it's important to feel confident about the whole nappy.

Other certifications, like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), only relate to parts of the nappy. In the case of FSC, that's just the wood pulp that is used. Wood pulp is used for the fluffy part in the middle of the nappy. And FSC wood pulp is grown in a way that is environmentally, socially and economically responsible.

That’s important, however, that's just one part of the nappy. You may also see certifications like ISO 9000, which is about quality management and doesn't relate to how "low tox" the nappy is at all, it's about how efficiently the factory is run. Or EU CE certification, which is about conforming to European standards, but can be self assessed, so it doesn't even necessarily need to be checked!

A nappy is made up of many parts, and as the whole of the nappy is going on to your baby, I think it's important to feel confident about the whole nappy.

Best Eco Disposable Nappies

Bambo Nature Nappies

Updated January 2021

Bambo Nature nappies have long been a favourite of mine. I used a combination of these and cloth nappies with both of my boys, and this brand has just got better and better over the years. They have the Nordic Swan Ecolabel AND the EU Ecolabel, both of which are government run, cradle to grave eco certifications. You don't get better certifications than these.

They have a host of other certifications, too, like the ISO 4001, which means that an environmental management system is in place; the ISO 50001 for energy management systems; ISO 9001 for quality management systems; and SA 8000 which certifies the company's efforts in social responsibility.

But wait, there's more, as the TV ads used to say. The wood pulp is FSC certified, and they're even certified by the Danish Asthma Allergy Association so that you know you're avoiding perfumes and allergens.

When it comes to social responsibility, the company has the SA 8000 which certifies the company's efforts in social responsibility.  They also comply with the United Nations Global Compact 10 principles on human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. Abena also applies the amfori BSCI code of conduct for their suppliers.

So what does all this mean? It means that Bambo Nature eco nappies are not only a socially responsible product, but they also have strict requirements as to their ingredients. As the very minimum standards, the ecolabels that Bambo Nature hold won't allow phthalates; organotins (of which TBT is one); no fragrances; no chlorine gas bleaching (ECF); no heavy metal dyes or inks; no optical brighteners. Products must use greater than 50% renewable materials, and there are also requirements about reducing the weight of the products (so that there is less going into landfill). And all of this is checked and certified independently, so these aren't just marketing hype and greenwash.

Bambo Nature nappies are made in Denmark, in a factory powered by wind production, where 85.4% of their waste was recycled in 2019. The packaging is made from sugarcane, and they're not tested on animals or use any animal products. There's so much more information available on this great brand and their environmental and social credentials that I can't go into it all here. But you're starting to see why this is one of my top picks!

For more information, you can check out the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, the EU Ecolabel, and more about Abena.

Moltex Nappies

Updated January 2021

Moltex are another favourite of mine. They also have the EU Ecolabel, which is a government run, cradle to grave eco certification, and they've won loads of eco awards, including the prestigious German "Green Brands" award. 

As with Bambo Nature, with the EU Ecolabel certification, Moltex tick all our boxes on ingredients: no fragrances; lotions; phthalates; chlorine gas; odour blockers; heavy metal dyes or inks; triclosan; parabens; formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasers; and more. It's a super comprehensive label and you can find more information here.

Moltex have other certifications, too: FSC certified wood pulp; Oeko Tex Standard 100; certified OK Biobased by TUV Austria (for the packaging); and are also AllergyCertified (which means no known allergens are allowed).

As to sustainability, they're made in Germany, in a factory that uses 100% clean energy. Two of the factories involved in the production of Moltex nappies are completely carbon neutral, and the company is working towards becoming a totally carbon neutral company by 2030. Like Bambo Nature, Moltex's parent company is ISO 4001 certified for environmental management systems; and ISO 50001 certified for energy management systems.

Moltex are another of my top picks with so many great things to say about them that I can't fit it all into one blog post! You can find more information about them here.

Muumi Nappies

Updated February 2021

It's probably becoming clear that I love European eco nappies. Muumi is another one, this time made in Norway.

Like Bambo Nature, Muumi have been awarded the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, which means that once again, we know that all the ingredients are safe, non toxic and independently verified. That means no fragrances; lotions; phthalates; parabens; heavy metal inks or dyes; chlorine gas; no odour blockers; formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasers; as well as lots of other nasties that aren't allowed and are independently tested for.

Other independent labels that they hold include FSC certified woodpulp; and are also Finnish Allergy, Skin & Asthma Federation Certified.

The nappy packs themselves are certified biodegradable, too. 

Muumi's sustainability credentials include production with certified hydroelectric power (with no carbon dioxide emissions), and the heat generated in the production process heats the factory (important in chilly Finland!). The production process produces zero waste that goes to landfill, instead recycling or incinerating it to produce new energy for the factory.

There's more information about Muumi eco nappies here

Better Than Mainstream Nappies

Comfy Koala

This is another Australian brand that’s made in China. I’ve been known to swear when I see ads for these, because there’s just so much greenwashing, although to be fair, it does look to have been toned down a bit since I first reviewed these. The website still talks about “biodegradable materials” and “FSC certified bamboo” and makes very little mention of the fact that these nappies, like any other disposable nappy, do contain plastic, and are not fully biodegradable (their website says 67% biodegradable). And again, when you throw them into landfill which isn’t exposed to light and air, they won’t biodegrade. 

I know I go on and on about biodegradability, but these brands are confusing customers into thinking that “biodegradable” nappies are the be all and end all. There’s so much more to a more eco friendly, sustainable nappy than this. An independent, cradle to grave certification really does guarantee a lower environmental impact, rather than cherry picking certifications for different parts of the nappy which often don’t mean much at all. 

So what are the good things about the Comfy Koalas? They’re not printed to avoid inks (although there is a wetness indicator, these aren’t necessarily ink based), and there’s no chlorine, alcohol, latex, PVC, TBT or fragrance. There is an aloe vera gel, too, which is apparently preservative free, but there’s no mention of other ingredients in that gel. 

Their website says they’re FDA certified, but nappies don’t have to be certified, so I’m not sure how relevant this is. The ISO certifications relate to quality control in the factory they’re made, but there are no ISO environmental certifications. All in all, there are some aspects of this nappy which are better than mainstream, but there's definitely more "eco" nappies available.

Eco by Naty

Updated March 2021

This one is a European brand, and they're made in Turkey. Eco by Naty don't hold any independent, cradle to grave eco certifications so there's no independent testing on ingredients.

Their website states, however, that they use "0% nasty chemicals". This is a vague and dare I say it, greenwash-type claim, so let's look further. They also state that they "screen for over 200 chemicals at an independent laboratory in France". They state that there are no heavy metal inks; dioxins, dyes, fragrances or phthalates.

Other independent labels in FSC certified woodpulp; Oeko Tex Standard 100; certified OK Biobased by TUV Austria (for the sugar can based packaging); and the V-Label for Vegan certification by the European Vegetarian Union

A word about OK Biobased. This certification works on a star system. The more stars, the more renewables that have been used. A certified product with a 1-star logo means that the product contains 20% to 40% renewables, 2 stars 40% to 60%, 3 stars 60% to 80%, and 4 stars that contain more than 80% renewables.

Eco by Naty holds two OK Biobased certifications. The packaging has 3 stars, and the nappies themselves have 2 stars. So while there are some renewables used in the products, be aware that this doesn't mean the raw materials are 100% renewables.

Greenwashing: 0% oil plastic on baby's skin. That doesn't meant that there is 0% oil plastic overall, it just means that it's tucked away inside the nappy.

Sustainability - when I checked in March 2021, the link to sustainability on their global and Australian websites was broken. I did find some information on the UK website, but although they talk about "constantly improving" there's no links to any certifications like the ISO ones that both Bambo Nature and Muumi hold. 

Ecoriginals

Updated June 2021

Ecoriginals are an Australian brand made in China. They have no cradle to grave certification for the nappy as a whole, and no information about the impact of the nappy as a whole, but there are a number of individual certifications. The nappies contain no fragrances, lotions, phthalates or dioxins.

They support Plasticbank to help collect plastic from the environment and recycle it. Ecoriginals also offsets their carbon with ecologi. In this way they claim to be plastic and carbon neutral. They're certified by Sustainable Forestry Initiative (but do note that there are issues with this).

However, there is quite a lot of confusing information on the ecoriginals website. The nappy packaging says "proudly Australian" which leads you to believe that they're made in Australia, which they are not. They're made in China, but it's impossible to get to the bottom of this on their website, which makes it look like they're made in New Zealand (when it's only the wipes that are made in NZ).

The packaging also talks about a commitment to "off grid manufacturing" but again, there's no actual information about this.

The nappy packaging also talks about nappies being 90% biodegradable, which they say means "gone in 90 days". But that is complete greenwashing, as 10% of the nappy is not biodegradable, so it's definitely not gone. And if you throw it into landfill, which is where disposable nappies go, even the biodegradable parts are not going to biodegrade.

That greenwashing and lack of clarity means that consumers are confused into thinking that nappies are :biodegradable", when they're absolutely not. I'm not saying that these are a bad nappy, (we wouldn't stock them if they were) but I do get very cross about the deliberate obfuscation of eco credentials and what it actually means.

Joonya

Updated March 2021

This is another Australian brand, this time made in the EU (although the actual country isn’t specified). Once again, there’s no overall, cradle to grave eco certification but there are a number of certifications for different parts of the nappy. 

Like many other brands here, the wood pulp is FSC Mix certified, with at least 70% of the core from sustainably managed forests. Joonya nappies are also certified Vegan by PETA, and they’ve been allergy tested by Dermatest. 

The website says that they are free from perfumes, parabens, lotions, chlorine, dyes, heavy metals, latex, PAHs, phthalates and a few more. For a change, this brand actually links to their test results. I love the transparency of this. If you’ve genuinely done the tests, why not shout about it? 

As to sustainability, again, I’m pleased to see that while Joonya do talk about the fact that some of their nappy is bio-based, they also show which parts contain PE (polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene) plastics. The packaging is made of bio based material and PE, so it’s not biodegradable but at least there's less oil based plastic and good protection for the nappies. There’s no point in having packaging that’s eco friendly but leads to a lot of damage and therefore waste. 

As part of their social responsibility, Joonya works with Trees for the Future.

Noopii

Updated March 2021

Noopii is another eco brand that doesn’t have a cradle to grave eco label, but it holds a number of other independent certifications. 

Noopii holds the New Zealand FernMark which is awarded to products made, grown or designed in New Zealand and is a mark of excellence and integrity. Noopii nappies are designed in New Zealand, and made in China by a NZ manufacturer. 

They are also Dermatest Certified and are suitable for sensitive skin. There’s no chlorine, fragrance, lotions, phthalates, dioxins or heavy metal inks, and they’re latex free, too.

Noopii packaging is very similar to ecoriginals, and is paper based with a PLA, cornstarch and plastic lining. Noopii nappies are made with 50% renewable or sustainable materials, too.

I love that the wonderful team behind Noopii are transparent and truthful about things like biodegradability, instead of greenwashing us into believing that since part of the nappy is biodegradable it will mostly break down in landfill in three months. As I’ve discussed before, this is utter rubbish (pun intended!), but so many “eco” nappy companies persist in peddling this myth.

As to social responsibility, Noopii supports One Billion Trees, contributing to planting native trees in New Zealand. They also support various wildlife recovery programmes.

Pandas by LuvMe

Updated July 2021

Pandas by Luvme is another Australian owned, Chinese made brand. And like many of these more eco brands, there’s a lot of vague information. There’s a whole page on their website about product certifications that lists absolutely zero. Not a single certification.

The website itself is very confusing. The FAQs page doesn’t exist, just goes back to the home page. The home page says things like “made from plants”, “biodegradable, compostable, recyclable” and “made in New Zealand’ but has absolutely no information about what these things are in reference to. 

And then I start to get really cross, because some of the claims they make are just plain wrong. Information taken directly from the product page for Pandas nappies says: “Our nappies take between 90-120 days to biodegrade depending on the environmental conditions and each component of the nappy too.”

And then in the very next line, it says that the nappy uses 85% biodegradable materials. So how exactly does that 15% plastic biodegrade in 90 to 120 days then? 

I get absolutely furious when I see this kind of misinformation. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that someone just didn’t read their own website properly, but I get too many people telling me that this brand is “biodegradable” for me to think that this is anything but intentional greenwashing.

Rascal & Friends Eco

Updated March 2021

Rascal & Friends is a supermarket brand with both “eco” and mainstream versions. They’re a New Zealand brand made in China. There is no cradle to grave certification, but different parts of the nappies have other certifications. 

The nappies are PETA certified vegan and cruelty free, are Dermatest certified for sensitive skin, and also hold BioChecked Non Glyphosate certification. Rascal & Friends website states that their nappies are free from fragrances, lotions, chlorine, heavy metal inks and latex. 

Their website is somewhat misleading, as under the eco nappy FAQs about what the nappy is made from, there's a lot of talk about the plant based parts of the nappy, but no mention of the plastic that's also used. Under the FAQs for the standard nappies, they mention the plastic parts - polyethylene film and polypropylene non woven fabric. This leads you to believe that there's no plastic in the eco nappies, but that's nonsense - all disposable nappies contain some plastics. Greenwash is designed to confuse, and I'm calling this out as greenwash.

The packaging is made of cornstarch and is home compostable (not recyclable).

The difference between the eco nappies and the standard nappies is packaging, and a little more plant based material. That's it.

Tooshies by TOM

Updated March 2021

Tooshies by TOM are an Australian brand, designed in Melbourne, and made in China. Once again, the nappies don't have an independent, cradle to grave certification. The company itself is a BCorp company.

The nappies themselves are free from latex, lotions, parabens and heavy metal inks. I couldn't find anything on their website about the nappies being fragrance free, but Tooshies confirmed that by email. They also confirmed that they're chlorine free.

Tooshies nappies are unusual in that they have a bamboo core, rather than wood pulp. Bamboo can be a great choice, as it's very fast growing and requires no fertilisers. However, the chemical processing to turn bamboo into fibre can have a very heavy environmental impact unless it's processed in a closed loop environment. Tooshies use GOTS certified organic bamboo.

Unlike many brands, Tooshies are upfront about “biodegradable elements” rather than the whole nappy being biodegradable, even if this is tucked away in their FAQs. They also say to put nappies in the bin for health reasons, and not to compost them at home. Tooshies also mention that disposable nappies won’t break down in landfill because there’s no light or air.  So many brands try to gloss over this part or even confuse and greenwash customers, so I love that Tooshies does actually state this.

When it comes to how sustainable and "eco friendly" the nappies are, there's not a lot of information. Their website states that they "constantly review our entire supply chain to reduce our overall impact on the environment" which is so vague as to be unhelpful.

Tooshies also say that their nappies are manufactured in a factory entirely run on solar power.

Supermarket Nappies

Aldi Nappies

Updated June 2021

Aldi nappies say that they have no fragrance, lotions, latex or formaldehyde. Their nappies are made in Australia (or were in 2019 - I can’t get hold of any updated information on this). Aldi don’t test on animals, and they also say that they don’t use cotton from Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan due to child labour issues. 

Otherwise, the nappies are standard nappies, with no other environmental credentials.

BabyLove Nappies

Updated July 2021

BabyLove Cosifits nappies are your standard supermarket nappy. The website says that they don’t have latex, elemental chlorine, formaldehyde, tributyltin (TBT), fragrance or lotion. The wood pulp is PEFC certified, and it’s biodegradable, we’re told. However, as all wood pulp is biodegradable this isn’t exactly an exciting new feature. 

The BabyLove website also says that they “strives to operate as an environmentally and socially responsible brand”. However, also on their FAQs page is a question about why they changed jumbo boxes to plastic bags and the answer is because the cardboard took up too much room in recycling bins. Yep, definitely striving for environmental responsibility there.

Beyond is a new brand that BabyLove are developing , currently available as pullups only. These have some organic cotton in them, and are Oeko-Tex 100 certified.

As with their other nappies, the wood pulp is also PEFC certified. Website says Beyond nappies are manufactured in factories that produce zero waste and have solar power generation systems. The soft packaging is REDcycle recyclable, but this is true for all soft plastic nappy packs. There’s a lotion that’s made from “olive oil, rice bran oil and jojoba oil”. So what makes these different? Some organic cotton and Oeko-Tex testing, that’s it. 

Although they do at least they say they’re not 100% biodegradable on their FAQs page, I’m not sure that there’s that much more to recommend these above the standard nappies.

Cub Nappies

Updated July 2021

The website says that these are made with 55% plant based materials and FSC certified pulp. There are water based inks, and no latex fragrance or chlorine.

Otherwise, there are no other environmental credentials and they're basically the same as other standard nappies.

Happy Little Camper Nappies

Updated July 2021

Happy Little Camper is a “natural nappy” according to their website. There are no no cradle to grave independent eco certifications. Like every other nappy, they have a sustainable forestry certification for the core, this time FSC certification. Apparently, this is a “bio core”which is made of wood pulp. As every single other nappy has an absorbent core made of wood pulp, they’ve all got “bio cores”. Are you smelling greenwash yet? 

Their website also says no added “fragrances, harmful dyes, chlorine, latex, phthalates, parabens”.

Again, according to their website, this is a “natural cotton nappy”, and elsewhere in their FAQs they explain that “natural” means “made only with natural materials”. No mention of the plastics in the nappy, although in the FAQs they say that the nappy is “up to 34% biodegradable”. So not really a lot of cotton then!

Also, according to a blog post on their website, sodium polyacylates (the absorbent gel in all disposable nappies) are “bad” and cause irritation and “severe burns”. Complete and utter nonsense, as countless research has proven. Strangely, though, on their own FAQs page, Happy Little Campers tells us that their nappies contain "super absorbent polymers". Any ideas what this is? You guessed it, sodium polyacrylates.

Seriously, if you're going to use scare tactics to try to sell products, at least be consistent on your OWN website. Trust in this brand? I don't think so.

Huggies Nappies

Updated June 2021

Huggies standard nappies also have no independent environmental credentials. They used to be made in Australia, but are now made in China and Korea. 

Kimberley Clarke has a “restricted substances” list, which include phthalates, parabens, elemental chlorine, triclosan and formaldehyde. There’s more information here.

Sourcing wood fibres from FSC-certified sources is part of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation Sustainability 2015 goals, but there’s no specific information mentioning how this applies to Huggies nappies.

As for animal testing, the Ethical Consumer website notes that Kimberly-Clark conducts tests on animals and that “although the company said it was committed to ending the need for animal testing, it gave no fixed cut-off date.” 

Huggies Ultimate nappies have a “plant derived liner wrap” but as the small print says that it’s only around 50% of the liner, this isn’t much. Packaging on Huggies Ultimate is made from 98% of recycled materials that can be recycled again through REDcycle. 

Little One’s nappies

Updated July 2021

Little One’s are your standard supermarket nappy. Like all other nappies, the wood pulp is sustainable forestry certified, this time by PEFC. The bag, like all another soft plastics, is REDcycle recyclable. The nappies themselves are Australian made (although do note that the pull ups are made in Belgium). There is absolutely no other information available about Little One's online, nor did I get any reply to my emails.

Lovekins nappies

Updated July 2021

There's basically no information available about these nappies at all. The packs say no chlorine, fragrance or toxic dyes. The Lovekins website mentions that there is some Australian cotton used, and that the nappies are Australian Certified Toxic Free. Otherwise, there’s nothing on their website at all.

Updating of this post is in progress. Please check back soon!

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