Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

gDiapers - Plugging up the shitter

Yes, I know you were all drawn to this post by its highly intellectual title. I aim to please. I wanted to discuss what you should and shouldn't be putting down the toilet. There seems to be some misunderstanding about what local wastewater treatment plants can handle downstream. Of course, this is also dependent on your municipality, but I'm going to overgeneralize and assume that they are similar in what they can and can not handle.

I spoke, last summer or so, with Tom Watson from King County, our local EcoConsumer guru as I had some questions about the viability of gDiapers and its impact on not only your toilet, but on the processing of waste in general. gDiapers markets the product as the most eco-friendly diaper available, mainly because you can flush or compost them and they break down in 50-150 days.

Now, most people aren't going to compost human poopy diapers and most yard/food waste collection programs won't accept them, so that means the option for being the most "eco-friendly" involves flushing them down the toilet. I was surprised to learn a few things about what the engineers at our wastewater treatment plants can't stand. You, know the shit and the "shit" that clogs up the works.

Basically, what they recommend is that the only things you flush are human waste and toilet paper. Nothing else. Nada. Did you hear me? Those "flushable" butt wipes? No. How about that clay kitty litter that turns into something you can use skeet shooting? Hell, no. Tampons? Don't make me DivaCup you upside the head.

So, what about gDiapers? Aren't you paying attention? If something like a tampon is a problem, do you honestly think that flushing a giant wad of pooped-up gDiaper is going to go down properly? Not only is your sewage and/or septic system potentially at risk, but you're wreaking havoc with the whole system unintentionally.

The City of Vancouver actually did a study of the treatability of gDiapers and their impact on sewer and wastewater systems. To summarize, they concluded that (feel free to read the entire study, it's actually very interesting.):

"It is the City's recommendation that gDiapers, when used by the City's sewer customers, be managed as a solid waste and not flushed down the toilet. Consumers should bag the used product and place it in their garbage container for disposal. Those consumers who have an active and well-managed compost system may also choose to carefully include urine-only gDiapers discards with their compostable wastes."

So, what's the point of spending the extra money on flushable diapers if they are going to have to go to the landfill anyway? I'm not sure it's worth the extra cost. If you want to use disposables, stick with chlorine-free, non-toxic, non-flushable eco-diapers. Most of them are biodegradable if your landfill is equipped for that sort of thing. Just don't flush them.

And, just remember. The toilet is not a trashcan.

If you had/have kids, did you use cloth, disposables, eco-friendly disposables or another method for diapering?


Paige said...

#1 sposies all the way
# 2 sposies first 4 months, then cloth until 1, then sposies until trained
#3 cloth all the way
#4, Sposies all the way

a side note, #3 is my ONLY child who consistently gets himself up during the night to go potty, and never EVER wets the bed.
second side note, all kids are boys...

Glenda said...

We had a plumber tell us tissues that have lotion in them are heck on sewer lines because they don't come apart easily in water. I assume that's true of flushable wipes & dipes, as well. If you've ever had a plumber run a camera down your sewer line and you see for yourself all the places stuff can snag up and cause a back-up, it is quite eye-opening. That's when we quit using plush tp and quit flushing "convenience" paper products, like "flushable" wipes and fancy tissues. It's also when I realized just how much water it takes to move things thru the sewer pipes to where they feed into the city's pipes.

My one & only kiddo was a disposable dipe *and* cloth dipe kid. We started & ended up with disposable dipes, and did cloth for a period of time in-between.

Shari said...

One kid, 95% cloth. Used disposables (Seventh Generation) only as backup. Our son gave up daytime diapers at 22 months at his insistence and gave up nighttime diapers at 26 months. Cloth is so easy and since you can sell them the second you are done you spend far less in the long run.

Kay's Spot said...

2 kids, now long out of diapers, and both cloth during the day and disposables at night. My oldest was a very heavy night time wetter and cloth was too bulky and not absorbent enough. 2nd kid just got disposables at night to go along w/the status quo. However, now they have some pretty cool systems that would probably work well for kid #1 at night were she still in them.

Side note: Both girls potty trained quick and easy during the day. But night time training was long and drawn out. Finally gave up and just let them wet the bed for about a month or two. the oldest, then 6, had NEVER gone a night without wetting her diapers/bed, but she only took about 3 weeks to become aware of her bladder at night (and she finally slept all night and peed in the morning only) the youngest, then 5, took the better part of the summer to be reliable all night long. Makes me wonder what would have happened if I had used cloth at night from the get-go.

Naomi said...

We've used cloth 100% of the time for #2, and only used disposables when we went away for more than one night with #1 (now we just take the nappy bucket and use the cloth lol). #3 will be cloth all the way too.

For us it is about eco concerns and $$ - buying nappies each week costs way too much, using cloth is much cheaper for us!

ruchi said...

As an interested observer, for people who have done both, how much easier is disposable than cloth? And also, did you use a service or wash yourself?

Anonymous said...

Our East Bay Municipal Utility District also advised against flushing gDiapers when I contacted them this summer.

And there is a question whether they are actually plastic-free. But that is a post for Fake Plastic Fish once I have the time to get to the bottom of it. IF I have the time to get to the bottom of it.

I never used cloth or disposable diapers. But I do use cloth panty liners. Does that count?

Robj98168 said...

IMHO AS A PROFESSIONAL PLUMBER, I approve this message!!! Noy only do products like gdiapers and feminine products are bad for your WW or Sewage Treatment they plug your lines, Then you get to call someone like me to your house and give someone like me 150+++ dollars to unplug your lines. I should go out independent and leave the boeing company! LOL LOL Muwhahaha (evil plumber laugh)

Robj98168 said...

PS to Glenda- a plumber used a see snake to photograph your lines?? Wow that's spendy!!! But it is interesting to see what's down there!

Unknown said...

My mum used cloth with all of us, and since she worked and had 3 children 10 years younger than me, I changed A LOT of the old-fashioned cloth diapers. The swish in the toilet kind. Which made me use disposables with #1. Then I got older and more conscious with #2 and did part time EC, some cloth and some disp. Until poor health and me going insane made us give up cloth. Kept doing EC until she was really mobile and then she refused. Now it's just evil disposables since I plan on potty training her pretty soon and I'm not going to buy a bunch of new cloth at this point. And to answer Ruchi, I don't know about some people, but for me, disp. are, hands down, miles easier than cloth, but I never used a diaper service.

knutty knitter said...

Cloth until they grew out of them and then disposables for a while until trained. The shaped cloth ones were easy to deal with but they were expensive so we had to go disposable for a few months when they got too big. Both trained at just under three - boys are slow!!!

That was some years back now when eco was not the norm. I'd be even more insistent on green now with better options out there.

viv in nz

Sue said...

#1 cloth then 'sposies then cloth then 'sposies then potty trained at 17 months (yay girls!)
#2 cloth until 18 months until potty-trained. 'sposies until 30 months after he regressed at 23 months (he developed a strong fear of wet. wasn't no getting him back in those cloth diapers. he regressed because his hand would get wet when he held his penis down to pee and it really really offended him).
We currently have a septic problem, so this post is timely. The backhoe will be here any day (I HOPE) to diagnose the problem. Here's hoping it was nothing we did before we knew better. And I'd be THRILLED if it would only be $150 to fix.

ThiftedBliss said...

cloth diaper service 95% of time with 1st child, 2nd child got rash with cloth, tried washing myself with all types of detergent etc. with no luck so switched to disposables. As long as I stuck to a generic brand had no problems with rash.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Glad you posted this. I asked the director of operations at the wastewater treatment plant my class visits every year about gDiapers (about a year and a half ago) and he said the same thing, NO!!!!!! Don't flush anything but toilet paper and waste. Had to say the kids in my class were appalled that everything labeled "flushable" like tampons/applicators and wipes would be sold under false pretenses. Ah, intro to how advertizing works :)

I'm considering gDiapers for our baby, but I'd NEVER flush them, since we haven an engineered septic system that cost us upwards of $30,000 when we built our house. Yeah, I'm not screwing with that! I need to look into the cost of gDiapers vs. other biodegradable diapers and that will help me decide. Also, local availability is important.

I'm pretty sure I've ruled out cloth diapers because of the increase in laundry. Anything that increases how much laundry I have to do it a huge negative in my book. (Kind of like how the lack of bottles to wash is a huge pro for breastfeeding, to me).

Karine said...

I used cloth during the day (washing it myself) and disposable Moltex at night (so she can get 12 hours straight without feeling too wet). When we started daycare at 12 months, we had to use disposable all day (but we are still using cloth during the weekends).
It takes more time to put on a cloth diaper because there are two steps (the diaper and the cover), but they now sell cloth diapers all-in-one so it should be the same as the disposable. I don't mind the washing.

knittingwoman said...

regular single use paper diapers (there is no such thing as disposable garbage) switched to cloth when he was a toddler for child #1. Paper single use diapers for child #2, switched to cloth when he was a toddler. Child #3, cloth all the way, diaper service at first then washing our own. Child #4 and child #5 were also cloth diapers all the way. We did get the ocasional week of diaper service at the grandparents house while visiting when we had several in diapers.
We did at least one long distance driving trip with our van and the diaper pail. We also camped with kids in cloth diapers.

I don't mind doing laundry, had 4 kids under 6 so lots of laundry was a given. IMO, it's the same as using cloth menstrual pads, you have to have enough and then you get in the routine.
Some of the boys were potty trained early and some were later.
You didn't mention the elimination method which is gaining in popularity and means many less if any at all diapers.

Diapers are a thing of the past now I wash cloth pads for my daughter and myself instead:)

amandaginn said...

Here's the deal: You're supposed to empty poop from disposable diapers into the toilet. It says so on the package.

So why not just dunk a cloth diaper in the toilet in the first place? Use a flushable liner if poopy hands upset you too much.

We use Kissaluvs fitted diapers.

Stephanie said...

We use cloth, I bought one-size diapers so I didn't have to worry about them growing out of them. I was myself every other day and its not so bad. We just switched to disposable at night, just couldn't find a cloth solution that worked.

Susan said...

We used cloth with both of our kids, except when travelling and for daycare, which required disposables. We washed them ourselves and line dried them whenever possible.

We used one set of cloth diapers for both kids and then handed them down to someone else. Even after two kids, they were in fine shape.

Disposable diapers are easier in one way, at the moment you're changing them. But they're not easier in the long term, given that they're still likely to be in the landfill when our children's children are born.

Beth said...

gDiapers says right on their website that you are only supposed to compost the pee diapers. You use a handy little swish stick after tearing down the sides of the gDiaper and it is literally just like toilet paper and breaks up before your eyes. Check out the video:

Perhaps the Vancouver study is based on actual use of the diapers which maybe some lazy folks out there are not tearing them down the side and swishing them properly which I could see causing problems, but I honestly don't see the tampon vs gDiapers logic. They are completely different. I wonder if the waste treatment plant reps have actually seen a gDiaper or are just stating the nothing but toilet paper and waste argument, because the gDiaper is cellulose which is plant and so is toilet paper.

Also, the "not worth the expense" is misleading too. More expensive than one - disposables? Anyone interested in gDiapers knows that the cost of disposables is much higher in the long run for everyone. gDiapers are really relatively comparable in price after the initial investment in the cloth covers and you have to pay for garbage around here. We compost the pee diapers and flush the poo ones and we don't have fantastic water pressure. You can even flush them with a septic system.

No, I'm not a sales rep, just a tried and true frequent user of gDiapers. By all means, cloth is far superior for the environment and your budget but gDiapers is an awesome in-between.

Beth said...

"The biodegradability and compatibility with both septic tank and main sewage systems enables them to be used in the manufacture of disposables. Recent trials have shown that in the sludge digestion plant where sludge is held for about 3 weeks for cleanup and stabilization prior to disposal, the rayons biodegrade totally within a week."

Kim said...

We used disposables for the first 2 months until he was big enough to fit into the one size cloth pocket diapers we bought. They are super easy to use - velcro on just like a disposable - the only extra step is putting an insert into the pocket. You can put two in for extra absorbancy for nights, etc. The laundry isn't bad - we're washing enough clothes anyway due to spit up, etc that I pretty much have to do one load a day and just alternate diapers and clothes. Of course, I hang everything to dry.

Heather@EnviroMom said...

I've heard a waste official from Portland say the exact same thing about gDiapers. They are a nightmare for the already overtaxed sewage system! Boo.

Eileen said...

Very interesting about gDiapers. I looked into them but for the expense I'd rather buy reusable cloth.

DD wore disposables until I became obsessed with cloth when she was almost 2. Then she did a combination of prefolds, flats, and finally pockets (stuffed with flats, not microfiber) until potty training (with washable trainers) at 33 months. DS started in disposables for a few weeks and then went to prefolds, and is now in pockets (since DD is no longer wearing them). We'll probably do the same if/when we have a third.

I wash them myself every other day with a top-loader purchased used (and super-cheap) just for diapers. Yes, it uses more water than our front-loader but they just weren't getting clean otherwise. I figure I still use way less water than a diaper-making factory. I dry them on the line in warm weather. I use Planet and occasionally peroxide bleach.

For trips we often take the cloth and the pail liner, but if it's more than one nite the bag gets a little rank. This xmas we're taking disposables - might try an eco brand.

amanda said...

we looked at g-diapers when considering cloth, and i have to say: why would you go with them? there are SO MANY FABULOUS cloth options out there! we love our kissaluvs, and there are AIO, pre-folds, etc etc etc. there are one-size, multi-size, pocket, etc. Ours have gone through 2 kids and as they younger is outgrowing them, we're giving away and selling the too-small.
there's just no good reason to use the gDiapers. as somebody else mentioned, if you don't want to touch the poopy to send it down the toilet, you can always use a diaper liner, which have the same impact as toilet paper.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Forget diapers alltogether! My kid pees and poos direcly on my lawn outside. Of course, my kid is a dog but now you're just quibbliing with details.

I was a cloth diaper kid, with safety pins! Not velcro. But I think my mom used disposables when we traveled.

AmazinAlison said...

I am intrigued by what @Beth says regarding G-diapers, the swish stick and them breaking down. We were gifted a box of G-diapers when our son was born and so I used them: my only complaint is that a few diapers started to breakdown when he was still wearing them! I also swish sticked them and they did indeed break down, so if entire diapers are ending up in the system, folks must not be using them right.

We used cloth diapers from day one with my son, except when travelling (we did take them on a few overnight trips, but not plane trips). This summer we switched to disposables as we moved and stayed with my parents for 5 weeks, but we also started potty training at that time and so he now wears one disposable per day at night time only.

Also, @Farmer's Daughter, the cloth laundry is really not bad. One load of laundry ever 48 hours is nothing compared with the laundry you will do as a result of spit up on shirts and or leaks and or food or dirt on clothes! And, if you are concerned, maybe do a diaper service for the first 3 months. Prefolds are super easy to use and wash. With our next kid I think I will do prefolds with snappi closures for the entire time.

With that said, I think I am the ONLY person I know who dumps poopy disposables (the poop part) in the toilet, before wrapping the diaper up for disposal in the trash.

Anonymous said...

With baby #1 we used regular disposable diapers. For baby #2 we have been using cloth diapers exclusively since he was a week or so old (after the dreaded meconium period was over). We started with a diaper service, and then moved to washing our own.

I am happy with cloth diapers, and feel that they are the best compromise for me in terms of cost and environmental impact. Nothing is completely neutral, of course, so we're just making the best choices we can for our situation.

Tessa said...

Mostly cloth, I thought they did a better job.

Aimee said...

Cloth with n#1 (I love baby diaper service!!) and cloth during the day, disposables at night/away from home with the other two. I tried to rationalize that my impact was minimized because all 3 of my kids (girls) potty trained before they hit 2 years old.

Robj98168 said...

One more comment then I will shut up: Septic Systems (at least here) end up in a sewage treatment plant- (ever wonder where the magical pump truck that pumps out your septic tank takes the waste- the sewage treatment plant!)

Diana R.Smith said...

Cloth\washed and hung out on the line...or in the basement in winter....just call me eco-mama. At the time I was just plain too poor to do anything else so don't need any pats on the back!

Know nowadays many moms have kids in daycare and they require disposables.

We have a septic system and then only thing that goes down our pipes is TP and what toliets were made for. Our hope this summer is to build an outhouse,yes, an outhouse as we are outdoors so much and hate to stop and track our messes thru the house to use the BR. DEE

Rosa said...

1 child, 90% cloth, with disposables when he was tiny (preemie, cloth diapers we had were too big), when we were traveling, or for emergency out-of-diapers situations.)

Ruchi - for me, the cloth were WAY easier as long as I was home with him, but there are no childcare centers that do cloth that are near my home - once I started working, we wanted him in a licensed center and the only one that would handle cloth we would have had to drive to, which is dumb (we mostly walk to the daycare - it's half a mile from home.)

The other thing for us was that as soon as he started wearing disposables (18 months) he much, much preferred them - the cloth ones wadded up between his legs & he didnt' like them. We had poo pockets, and I wanted to try making some with narrower crotch areas, but I'm not the person around here who sews, so it never happened.

Rosa said...

and to second Rob - everyone who ever flushes everything should read Barbara Outwater's really wonderful book, Water.

It's about north american ecosystems, will teach you more about beaver than you ever imagined, and is great on wetlands & buffalo too - but she started out a treatment plant engineers and her page-long rant about tampon applicators in the sewage system are CLASSIC.

Any solids you put into the system up the amount of chlorine & other chemicals they have to use to kill germs. Period. Totally aside from whether it clogs up your pipes.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

We used mostly cloth with our first daughter and although much cheaper, it was a heck of a lot of work. (We don't have access to a service here.) With my 9 month old twins I've been using disposables because there's no way I could manage the cloth in addition to the usual chaos of three kids three and under. The disposables are infinitely easier for me but I still cringe everytime I throw them in the bin. Thanks for posting this about the g diapers-- I've been feeling guilty for not buying them because of their reputation for being somewhat earth-friendly.

The Nurturing Pirate said...

We've used cloth for both kids. Before gDiapers were around, the only time we used disposables on kid #1 was when we were traveling. But I found gDiapers to be a great alternative to disposables when traveling with kid #2. The liners and covers were easy to wash in a hotel sink (and dried fast). But we stopped flushing them after having a few issues with our own plumbing. Now kid #2 is potty trained by day and only wears a (cloth) diaper at night. Yay! Also, we've never used a diaper service. I found that 2 loads a week were all that was necessary, so no biggie. The key is to get enough diapers to make full loads (better efficiency) and have enough to diaper with while you have a load in. We also used all-in-ones in daycare. If it seems like I have alot to say about cloth diapers, it's because I do! In fact, I wrote a whole booklet on the different options. Feel free to email me to request it (it's free). dawnDOTsDOTmartinATgmailDOTcom

Laureline said...

Even if you toss them rather than flush them they're more eco friendly than disposable diapers. Regular sposies are estimated to take around 500 years to finally break down and gDiapers break down in 90 days. We alternate...when home we use cloth (wahm gFlappers made out of bamboo) and when we're out and about we use the disposable inserts (which we toss).