Frequently Asked Questions

This is section serves as a guide to help answer some of the questions you might have. If what you are looking for is not here, then press the button below to “Ask  A Question.”

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Why the move to reusable nappies now?

Sustainability has always been part of our ethos at the Tops Day Nursery. We are passionate about sustainability in all our practice and policy. We’ve recently discovered that our waste provider was sending some of our nappies to certain landfill areas, and not to an incineration as we had thought and that is contrary to our sustainability culture. Consequently, we piloted the first washable nappies programme at our nursery in Southsea, because reusable nappies are a huge benefit to the planet and better for the child.  After a successful pilot rollout, we further implemented these reusable nappies in our nursery at Lakeside. We are proud that we are no longer sending thousands of nappies to a landfill or incinerators, causing micro plastics to invade our oceans, food chain, and negatively impact everyone’s health and wellbeing.  Reusable nappies are one of our Eco-Schools assurances and Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) drivers, we are supporting UK businesses in purchasing the nappies, and providing a community service by supplying loaner hampers to parents for a trial run – prior to a financial commitment. At the moment, Portsmouth and Plymouth seem to be short of provision for nappies and we are planning to change that soon.

Any aspect of it easier or more difficult – increased washing?

Nothing is more difficult at all – in fact it is now easier – there is no excrement running out of any child’s disposables.

The commercial machines used in washing these nappies are fast and efficient, with an eco-setting on the dryer cabinet which means they can be dried overnight and that is something we couldn’t do with a tumble dryer (*tumble dryers are not recommended for reusable nappies as the tumble motion breaks down the integrity of the nappy fabric).

 

How does the staff feel about using them?

The staff has been very receptive to the change of policy & process. They are fully invested in our sustainability goals. They have reported that parents are very happy with the change to reusable nappies. The staff share their experiences specific to their own sites between each other and have the support from Barbara and Cheryl for any queries or issues that might come up. The settings have been issued with commercial washing machines, shower-head rinsing equipment, reusable gloves, tongs and Scandinavian drying cabinets (which are eco-friendly and preserve the longevity of the cloth nappies).

Have you seen an increase in parents using reusable nappies at home also?

We have seen an increase in parents and staff ordering our hampers which contain everything you need to get starting with the reusable journey.  We have had positive feedback from the parents, who have been happy to make the switch at the nursery and at home.  They have commented positively on both the financial and environmental issues regarding reusable nappies. Even if parents just use one washable nappy per day, they will save a lot of money and a lot of waste.  We are providing all staff members who have new-born babies with a single washable nappy pack while on maternity leave and offer a hamper of washable nappies to help them on their parenting journey, since that personal experience equip staff members to help parents enormously and will of course save them hundreds of pounds a year as well. Parents with a washing machine at home and space to dry nappies will find the change very doable and will save money, but parents without these facilities, inevitably those who are more deprived and need it the most, will find washable nappies much harder. Other countries such as Brazil are beginning to provide a nappy rental service to parents, which I think is the way to go, but currently being blocked in the UK because disposable nappies are comparatively very cheap to buy – the cost of their waste is not being accounted for by the manufacturers’ selling price but borne by the local community or businesses paying for it in their commercial waste.

Are tumble driers costly to buy and take up a lot of room?

We get ours from:  https://podab.co.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-Mux4qLO8QIVyJ7tCh2KaAo5EAAYASAAEgLhe_D_BwE, they might be prepared to advertise!

We use the TS43, which is the same width as normal appliances (595mm) and the same depth (615mm) but stands full height at 1915mm.

They are about £1300 retail price (we got a discount for bulk ordering), so not cheap – but we expect them to last at least twice as long as a tumble drier as they have virtually no moving parts, and they are cheaper to run than a tumble drier too,  as long as they are run in a normal living temperature of 10 – 30 degrees (not in the garage in winter).

Are you using them with all children that aren’t potty/toilet trained across all the nurseries?

We are rolling out the reusable nappies across the nurseries, and yes, they are used for all children who are still in nappies.

 

I've never heard of drying cabinet before - how do they work exactly?

drying cabinet uses no mechanical action that can wear your clothes, the air stream transports residual moisture and it’s almost like drying outdoors.

 

 

How are drying cabinet different to normal drying?

They get up to around 70 degrees inside so will kill virus and bacteria (allowing a cooler wash in the washing machine) and we are expecting our washable nappies to last much longer for drying in these compared to a tumble drier – although drying outside is still the best option, but weather and space dependant.

Parent Testimony

Hi Cheryl,

I’ve now had a chance to look through all the resources on real nappies in your nurseries. I’m very interested in your online conference on reusable nappies in a childcare setting, as I am currently in touch with our local borough and town councillors about ways we can reduce single use nappy waste locally. One of the things I am looking at would be to pilot using cloth nappies in a suitable nursery setting – I would probably start by targeting my son’s nursery initially, and then look at others in our town.

 What I have in mind is to offer a nursery that has suitable washing facilities, a kit for using on the babies in the setting; this would be a mix of pre-folds and 2-part nappies, such as Little Lambs, as I think that these are most reliable in a busy setting. Parents could opt-out if they weren’t comfortable with their child using cloth, but otherwise, there would be a presumption that for the duration of the trial, babies would be using cloth in nursery and changed into disposables to return home. I would offer to do full staff training and support on the best use of washables. If they don’t have suitable washing facilities, then we could do an ‘opt-in’ system, where I give staff training and then offer them a kit that parents can borrow to try at home.

 I would appreciate your thoughts, and those of your nursery managers, on whether you think this is a workable plan; and if so, your advice on the best way to approach or present it to nurseries – as I’m also aware that the EY sector has had a torrid year with Covid, and may be averse  to well-meaning schemes that are ‘just one more thing’ on top of everything else.

If you have any facts and figures on the average number of yellow bins a typical nursery setting gets through in a year, and the different sorts of costs involved with those, I would also appreciate some insight into the nitty-gritty of the economics of nappy waste – since the cost side might be more of an incentive for some settings than the environmental side.

Cheryl's Response

You are unlikely to find a nursery with suitable washing facilities as the little lamb nappies do not like being tumble dried, we bought drier cabinets – which are cheaper to run, and far less likely to break down than tumble driers, but around £1200 to buy if only buying one. They could also do with a shower head (not a wide one!)  next to the toilet for spraying the poo down the toilet – these are cheap, under £10 plus a plumber, and some marigolds and tongs. An outside washing line will help save on the electricity bill if they have the outside space.

We’ve found that some parents were more uncomfortable with the idea of their child sharing cloth nappies rather than the actual cloth nappies – and the solution to this is to offer them the option of providing their own cloth nappies for their child and us returning them at the end of the day – and as they can buy them cheaply online or from Aldi or Waitrose or similar, and of course many councils provide a grant for this purpose. We don’t send them home in disposables because those will just end up in the waste, we either send them home in one of ours to bring back the next day, or to provide one of their own. We do have some letters from Tops Nurseries that we have sent to parents which could be of assistance.

Yellow bins are normally collected once a week, and that can go down to once a month if using the cloth nappies (probably still need one for sanitary wear and nappy liners for any using those).  Larger nurseries would have larger bins rather than more collections.  The cost will be a local one – if you just check with your local waste companies, but probably around £9.50 collection based on ours here.  Some nurseries might be putting their nappies into general waste – it’s not illegal and that’s what parents and childminders will do at home, in which case they may be able to reduce the size of that and may avoid overweight charges if they are putting in a lot of nappies each week – and those often will go to landfill not incineration like the yellow bins will.  Disposable nappies in the waste often smell awful too – the poo is still in them and the chemicals react to produce a really unpleasant smell that you don’t get from the cloth nappies that are wet with the poo rinsed or scraped off.

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