How can I reuse or recycle disposable nappies/diapers?

Disposable nappyObviously the greener option is to use reuseable nappies but Katie emailed to say:

Did you know that the new disposable nappies are full of ‘swell gel’, it’s the same stuff you get from the garden centre to add to compost to retain moisture and costs around £5 a box.

I have started to re-use my grandson’s nappies, just the wet ones! Rinse them in the shower until all the ‘yellow’ has gone and they don’t smell.

Rip one end and squeeze them into your compost and hey presto, compost that doesn’t dry out. Ideal if you live in an area that has hose pipe bans every summer.

To be honest, I’d be worried about throwing all those petrochemicals into my compost heap because my compost heap is used pretty much entirely for my veg bed but I like the idea – but I could imagine using them at the bottom of flowers tubs in the garden.

Any other suggestions for re-uses? I suspect there will be some overlap with the sanitary towel suggestions but I think the size/shape might lead to some new ideas too.

(Photo by pascal79)

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9 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle disposable nappies/diapers?”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I don’t know anything about this kind of reusable nappies, but the old-fashioned cloth diapers (the kind you secure with a big safety pin) make great cleaning rags. Obviously they should be washed well after they are no longer needed for baby. The soft, very absorbent cloth is especially good for drying dishes. We have been using the same old cloth diapers for light cleaning in my house for 30 years!

  2. molliewobbles says:

    You can use un-used ones to make neck coolers. Sew a long tube of fabric and turn it right side out, then add the little dry gel pellets and sew up the other side. On a hot day soak in water until the gel is all swelled up and drape it around your neck. The moisture keeps you remarkably cool all day!

  3. Mari Ann says:

    I remember one of my friends saying they used nappies to make hanging baskets keep their moisture in.

    • Pussiboots says:

      This is a great use for them, and much cheaper than buying the gel when it is marketed for plants. The gel is just the same the added wee makes good plant food as well.

  4. kirsty says:

    Bit surprised no one has put up that you can use cloth nappies instead of disposable nappies! There are some fabulous modern designs that are as easy to use as the disposable nappies, and they mean no chemicals next to your babies skin! We bought some for our first child and are still using them with the second child saving loads of cash. Moltex nappies are supposed to be compostable, but you still need to pick out the plastic bits, and I did try one in our worm bin, it took ages to break down, but did eventually.

    • Not so easy to use cloth diapers around here (Brazil)… they are hard to find (I have only seen those old fashioned ones, that still cause a LOT of rash and are REALLY leaky!) and washing them can also be a great hassle.
      I considered them before my little girl was born, even considered buying some of those fancy cloth diapers in the US and bringing them down… but then I realized that with a baby and no help I would be washing diapers to no end, and, since we don’t have dryers around here (some people do, but the electrical bill sky rockets with their use!), I would have a kitchen full of drying diapers and no room to hang clothes for drying…
      Hence, the idea of using cloth diapers is really only useful for people in countries where there are resources for that!

      • Lolita says:

        buy about 24-36 flat diapers and you will wash evey 2 days. wash the diapers as you would your clothes! this is about you babys health! how can you risk it because you do not want to wash diapers? do you use paper clothes?

  5. matt says:


    Did you know that early this year a company knowaste had officially spent approx 20 million and developed a recycling plant specifically for recycling used nappies? well its true. I am currently in the middle of working with this company to start collections (in and around northamptonshire) and a reward scheme whereby every two nappies we recycle, you get one new nappy delivered to your door, not only saving on the amount you spend, but making the world a better place for our future generation.

  6. Pussiboots says:

    @ Lolita you only have to read your post to know who is the crazy one. Using disposable nappies is worse than abusing a child, yes better to break its leg any day. I do personally agree that re-usable nappies are best, but many people do not find that convenient and if your on a day out it is more tricky. I think reusing the gel is a great idea and the next best option rather than it all going to land fill. The Gel is hugely expensive if you are buying it for plant use. There is no need to wash out the wee unless you are putting old wee against the fresh young roots. Wee is full of nutrients that plants love – nitrogen ! so you are washing away the goodness. happy recycling to all.

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