For live chat N. 7 we invited Anna Gibson, Managing Director at Go Real, an independent and not-for-profit Real Nappy information Service. The aim of Go Real is to give parents clear information about reusable nappies, giving them national representation and the chance to make an informed decision about what style of nappies they wish to use.
So here’s what the Nappy Science Gang asked Anna:
Q: Are there reliable statistics for the number of cloth nappy users out there? I always wonder how you’d count that when there are huge variations in how people use them.
A: The most up to date statistic is that 5% of parents use Reusable Nappies. However this is quite an old figure and personally I would estimate that to be slightly higher now.
Q: When people come to you to ask about cloth nappies, do you tend to find that they come when they’re expecting a baby, or after the baby has arrived?
A: There seems be two different stages people contact us at. The first one is people who contact us when they are pregnant, are in nesting mode and have to have everything ready. The second are families with young toddlers around the age of 1, who have just heard about reusable nappies and want to make the switch.
Q: Are there any questions that come up over and over again?
A: The most common question is “which is the best nappy to buy?”, which is where council trial kits and nappy libraries come in. The second most asked question is “am I too late to make the switch?”, and of course it’s never too late to start reducing waste!
Q: Has any work been done to estimate the cost of sending disposable nappies to landfill for councils?
A: Yes, it costs around £100 per baby. This adds up to around £32 million pounds a year. Each baby produces around a ton of disposable nappies, and it costs just over £100 in landfill tax to dispose of a ton of waste.
Q: Have you done any work with the NHS or a companies like Boots or Bounty to help get the message out? I was inundated with information on products for my baby but there was no mention of cloth.
A: There is a link on the NHS choices website to Go Real. Bounty is tied up in a contract with a well known brand of single use nappies and Boots were interested and then pulled out with a staff change over.
Q: I’d be interested to know what work you do with local authorities. I was really disappointed that Newport council doesn’t have any incentive scheme, or any information at all really. It seems like a no brainer to to me that local authorities would hugely benefit from promoting real nappies.
A: Up until April this year we were running trial kit schemes with three different local authorities, however this was not financially viable for Go Real to continue with as the local authorities were not prepared to put the money in to run the projects that needed to be run. Now we are working with local authorities on a much smaller scale, offering them space to advertise on our website and use our images and resources. We are currently working with one local authority to put together an information booklet and since it is very hit and miss as to what information is available directly from each local authority, we have the Go Real website as a single point of information that is accessible for all.
The group then carried on discussing cloth incentive schemes by local authorities. Many councils have cut down on incentive schemes as the council representatives believe that they are not effective in getting more people to use cloth nappies, since those who choose to use them would use them anyway, regardless of any schemes. Anna Gibson also pointed out that it is incredibly hard to get the data to show the local authorities that their schemes are working, because parents rarely respond to the feedback forms they are sent.
The lack of incentive schemes means that some families, especially if on a low income or benefits, can’t afford the upfront cost of cloth nappies, even if in the longer term they would save money comparatively to using disposables. Anna Gibson suggested that if parents saved £10 a week from their 12 week scan, they would be able to afford high end cloth nappies by the time the baby is born.
Q: I work with families on low incomes and even £10 per week would be impossible for many of them, particularly with all the other costs associated with preparing for a baby. Do you do much in the way of promoting pre-loved nappies? It would be good if there was a scheme that allowed pre-loved nappies to be donated and passed on or sold at very low cost.
A: We have a page on our website about pre loved nappies, http://www.goreal.org.uk/second-hand-nappies We have previously worked with a womens refuge to supply mothers with nappies and we are on the lookout for a new charity to work with.
Thank you Anna for the informative discussion and it was good to see so many of you participating in this week’s chat!