Single-use nappies and their alternatives: Recommendations from Life Cycle Assessments

Single-use nappies and their alternatives: Recommendations from Life Cycle Assessments

Published: March 2021

VIDEO Overview (Youtube channel): English, Français, Español
SUMMARY for Policymakers (2-page pdf): English
WEBINAR of the report launch: English

In response to the request by Member States at the Fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly in March 2019, the UN Environment Programme’s Life Cycle Initiative has undertaken a review of Life Cycle Assessments of single-use nappies and their alternatives.

This report finds that, by most measures, reusable nappies are better for the environment than single-use nappies. Taking a life cycle perspective is essential for nappies (and other single-use plastic products), as this approach shows that the highest impacts of reusable nappies occur not in manufacturing but in the use phase. For single use nappies, the design of the nappy (i.e., weight and materials) and its management at end-of-life are the key life cycle stages.

This meta-analysis serves to highlight important aspects that policy makers should consider when evaluating environmental information (often in the form of LCA studies) on single-use nappies and their alternatives to inform policy development. Policies (on nappies) must be context specific and locally relevant. The study plots the results of the LCA studies reviewed in this meta analysis into an easy-to-read matrix that takes a snapshot of the relative preference for the nappy system, based on geographical, technological, and behavioural contexts. It is a snapshot of what the LCA studies currently tell us under the various scenarios.

Summary for decision makers

Short video overview

Report launch webinar

Recorded launch webinar

Webinar slide deck