Published date: 2 July 2020

Used nappy disposal takes a step forward today

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Chair of the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) made a passionate appeal to disposable nappy manufactures this afternoon on behalf of millions of north London residents by calling on companies to work with the Authority to tackle the scourge of contamination of good quality recycling with dirty used nappies.

The NLWA which serves over 2 million residents faces an anticipated bill of nearly £1.5 million this year as a result of having to dispose of material that has been incorrectly put in recycling collections - taking the quality recycling with it. Dirty nappies are at the top of this list of unwanted contaminants in our recycling bins.

Research carried out by the NLWA in 2019 showed that one in ten parents admitted to throwing dirty nappies in the recycling and that there was widespread confusion about correct used nappy disposal.  10% of parents of under 3s think nappies should go in a bin other than general waste. Some respondents also thought whether a nappy is clean, wet or soiled makes a difference to whether it can be recycled. The ‘Green Dot’ symbol on some nappy packaging (two intertwined arrows forming a circle), was particularly baffling for parents.  Of those surveyed, 55% thought that the ‘Green Dot’ symbol (two intertwined arrows forming a circle)  meant the outer packaging could be recycled and 13% thought it meant that either clean or used nappies could be recycled.  In fact, the symbol indicates that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe and does not mean that the outer packaging or its contents are recycled or recyclable. It is not currently possible to recycle any type of nappy through mainstream council recycling services.

“The meeting this afternoon with AHPMA (the Absorbent Hygiene Product Manufacturers Association was positive” said the Chair. “The industry understands our concerns and we welcome the willingness on display today to work together on the issue. Our aim is to raise public understanding of the correct way to dispose of used nappies, to be clear it’s in the residual waste bin; and greater awareness of the problems that contamination causes, not least the unpleasant environment that dirty nappies create for key workers keeping our essential recycling services moving at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Climate Emergency.”

We shall be reconvening later in the year to discuss proposals around a joint campaign and how to influence and change behaviours for the better on this important issue.