Study settles cloth vs. disposable diaper question

The debate over the relative environmental merits of cloth vs. disposable diapers, like the one over paper vs. plastic bags, arouses passions entirely out of proportion to its significance in the grand scheme of things. But still, the U.K. Environment Agency decided to settle the question once and for all: It sponsored a four-year study that analyzed three diaper types — disposable, home-washed cloth, and professionally washed cloth — from manufacture to disposal. The verdict? It doesn’t matter. No, really, it doesn’t. While disposables pile up in landfills, cloth diapers require energy to transport, wash, and dry. Both manufacturers and parents could do more to reduce their ecological impact, but the choice between cloth and disposable is one of personal preference and nothing more. Said Tracey Stewart of the Absorbent Hygiene Products Manufacturers’ Association (!), “No one any more can claim the moral high ground on nappies.” The only real winners here are people (ahem, us) who like to say the word “nappies.” Nappies, nappies, nappies.