Toddler in diaper

Does a Biodegradable Disposable Diaper Really Exist?

Published: 12/21/2019

Eco-savvy parents who aren’t able to commit to cloth diapers are often on the hunt for disposable diapers that are better for the environment. And while diapers made using Totally Chlorine-Free processing and sustainably-harvested fluff pulp are enticing, the Holy Grail of doody catchers is a biodegradable diaper. The disposable diaper that leaves you sleeping easy, dreaming of it silently breaking down into dirt. Okay, you probably wouldn’t actually dream about it, but it does leave you feeling much less guilty.

But does a truly biodegradable diaper really exist?

Technically – kind of. But it’s probably not what you were dreaming of.

Currently, there are a couple of disposable diapers on the market that claim biodegradability in compost facilities. However, all disposable diapers (at the time of writing this) contain some petroleum-based plastic components. In order for the diaper to properly degrade, you would need to deconstruct the parts of the diaper that are not biodegradable (yes, that means pulling apart a dirty diaper), and then find the right kind of composting facility. (Unless you live on enough acreage to have space for a compost pile containing hundreds and hundreds of diapers.) But municipal composting of diapers isn’t common across the U.S., so the majority of these diapers are likely being land-filled like the rest – in anaerobic conditions that pretty much prevent biodegradation from even occurring.

You read that right – landfills don’t really promote biodegradation. There’s simply not much dirt, very little oxygen, and few if any microorganisms – which are all required for efficiently breaking down materials. In fact, a landfill study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona found 25-year-old corncobs and grapes that were still recognizable, as well as 50-year-old newspapers that were still readable. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but “biodegradable” diapers will be hanging around in there along with everything else.

Are we telling you not to give them a try? Of course not. We understand that disposable diapers are a huge landfill burden and want to find better solutions, too. But we also want to give you the facts – and we encourage you to ask companies what exactly they mean if they're claiming biodegradability.

Are Hello Bello diapers biodegradable or compostable?

In regard to our diapers, even though we use a plant-based polylactic acid (PLA) and sustainably-harvested fluff pulp, they are not compostable or biodegradable. Still, we’re always on the hunt to make things better.

We continuously monitor the raw material markets and partner with suppliers worldwide to ensure we evaluate the latest and best plant-based ingredients for inclusion in our diapers, in addition to materials that maintain performance using fewer resources. And we eagerly await the day when municipal composting or municipal recycling (which is being tested in Europe and Asia right now) becomes the status quo! Turning diapers into dirt sounds pretty dreamy!

Learn more about our diapers here.