The Whitehouse launched a new initiative to tackle the “Diaper Divide” today.
The goal is commendable (making diapers affordable to all) but the approach runs contrary to Obama’s environmental goals.
Instead, the focus should be on affordable and accessible cleaning services for reusable diapers, as well as reusable diaper loan programs. Most sources agree that there are significant cost savings for reuasables, and these would be increased if the (cleaned and sterilized) diapers were passed on to younger babies as the older ones grow out of them.
While there is some debate about the climate impacts of reusable vs disposable diapers, this case for disposables hinges on the assumption that washing diapers is done in inefficient home washing machines. Centralized, commercial cleaning of reusable diapers could easily make it a win for reusables.
While there are likely to be many places without the baby density to make this sort of central reusable diaper ‘library’ practical, at least in dense cities, this approach should be preferentially pursued. Since large cities almost all have problems finding space for municipal waste disposal, this scheme would have the added benefit of helping to tackle the problem of municipal waste disposal.