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Waste Disposal: Nappies

Volume 462: debated on Friday 29 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the potential contribution of reusable nappies to reductions in landfill material. (146506)

Disposable nappies form 2-3 per cent. of the household waste stream, approximately 400,000 tonnes per year.

Reusable nappies may reduce demands on landfill but they still impact on the environment in other ways, such as the water and energy used in washing and drying them. In May 2005, the Environment Agency published a report entitled "A Life Cycle Assessment of disposable and reusable nappies in the UK". The report concluded that there was no significant difference between any of the environmental impacts of the disposable, home use reusable and commercial laundry systems that were assessed. None of the systems studied were more or less environmentally preferable.

The DEFRA-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme's (WRAP) Real Nappy Campaign was established to promote the use of reusable nappies. The three-year campaign succeeded in diverting approximately 23,000 tonnes of biodegradable nappy waste from landfill in England.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of (a) the length of time required for a disposable nappy to fully decompose in landfill and (b) the number of tonnes of (i) carbon dioxide, (ii) methane and (iii) other greenhouse gases which are emitted by landfill disposable nappies in each (A) first 10 years after disposal and (B) subsequent decade until total decomposition. (146507)

The Wisard software tool used by the Environment Agency in their report, "Life Cycle Assessment of Disposable and Reusable Nappies in the UK", assumed a 500 year time boundary for leachate in landfill. The Environment Agency therefore concluded that it would take that amount of time for the plastic part of a disposable nappy to decompose. The paper-fluff and faeces should take approximately 100 and 10 years respectively to degrade.

My Department does not hold the information requested on the gases emitted by landfilled disposable nappies. However, the Environment Agency's report (available from their website and the Library of the House) does contain some information on the impacts of disposable nappies on global warming and the gases involved.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the annual volume of disposable nappies going to landfill in each of the last five years. (146552)

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) on 26 January 2007, Official Report, column 2122W.