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The Hidden Cost Of Disposing A Disposable

The Hidden Cost Of Disposing A Disposable

A few weeks ago, Liz Turrigiano, the Co-Founder of Esembly cloth diapers took this photo.  This was a truck that she was stuck behind as she was driving with her daughter. In telling this story, she talks about how this moment brought up lots of questions about what happens to our garbage once it's picked up from the curb. 

This got Liz to thinking and researching and it got me looking for some facts and numbers too that I wanted to share with you.

Intuitively, we all know that our trash doesn't just 'disappear' when the big loud waste disposal truck comes to pick it up. But do we really realize all that happens to our waste when it leaves our homes? 

Do we realize that there is a real cost associated with getting our garbage from our home to where it ends up for the next few hundred years?

Depending on where you live, trash might be taken right from the curb to a landfill or, more likely, it might spend days or weeks in some sort of intermediary waste management station being sorted, packed or consolidated before continuing on it's way.  It might also be taken to an incinerator or take a ride on a ship or train before it ultimately ends up at a final landfill site. All of these steps cost money.

Even once garbage ends up in a landfill, the cost to operate and maintain the landfill is expensive and continues indefinitely. This is because nowadays, landfills are engineered sites with protective systems in place that can include things like methane gas capture, and leachate collection and treatment to prevent air and groundwater contamination.

According to a paper available at Pollution Prevention Infohouse titled DIAPERS IN THE WASTE STREAM A Review of Waste Management and Public Policy Issues by Carl Lehrburge (see the paper here):

For every consumer dollar spent on single-use diapers, an additional hidden cost of over $0.08 on average must be spent to pay for disposal.

This paper was written in December 1988. Read that date again -1988.  I am certain the cost is much higher now 35+ years later, but that's the only concrete number I could find for which to provide a reference. 

That means that if the average baby uses around 6000 disposable diapers, that the additional cost of disposing them sits at at least $480Now multiply that by 2 (or more) if a family has multiple children as most do. This is a cost OVER and ABOVE what a family spent to purchase them in the first place. A cost borne by communities as a whole in the form of taxes. 

This is information that should be shared with new parents when they are making decisions about how to care for their baby's basic needs so they can make the best decision for their family with full information in hand. 

If anyone is aware of a more recent or up-to-date paper study, please let me know

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