According to the EPA’s most recent municipal waste report (2008), 2.3% by weight of products discarded in the municipal waste stream are disposable diapers. That means that out of 166,740,000 tons or 333,480,000,000 pounds of trash, disposable diapers accounted for 3,790,000 tons or 7,580,000,000 pounds of non-recovered, toss-it-in-the-landfill trash in 2008.
The percentage of trash from diapers has gone up every year and continues to go up. With increasing population, one could understand how raw numbers go up, but this is percentage going up. As we figure out how to reduce and reuse, unless we also reduce the use of disposable diapers, that number will continue to go up. In Europe, where there is considerably more recycling and less discarding of durable goods, disposable diapers make up 15% of trash. The better we are at reducing, the more glaring disposable diapers become in the numbers.
Why do we put up with this? Why is this outrageous percentage of unnecessary waste normalized in our culture? It is normalized and excused as people forget that there are better options. Real diapers don’t cause waste.
7.6 billion pounds of diapers a year discarded in the U.S.
That’s about the weight of a billion newborn babies.