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May 2022

Nappy and incontinence waste disposal roundup

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Medical Waste and Waste Disposal

Read our latest blog for a roundup of all our content on the impact of nappy and incontinence waste disposal methods on health and hygiene, and why the safe disposal of nappy and incontinence waste is so important.

It's estimated that about 90% of babies in nappies use disposables instead of cloth nappies, and in South Africa alone, about one million babies are born each year. In addition, it is estimated that around 423 million adults worldwide suffer from incontinence, and require adult nappies. Can you imagine how much nappy and incontinence waste is being created annually? 

In case you needed a reminder as to why the safe disposal of nappies and incontinence waste is so important, here are some fairly hair-raising facts about nappies and their impact on the environment:  

Some facts about nappies

  • The average child will go though 6,000 - 7,000 disposable nappies in the first 2 and a half years of their life, and over 18 billion disposable nappies end up in landfill every year.  
  • Disposable nappies are the third largest contributor to landfill in the world. 
  • Disposable nappies are filled with raw sewerage - salmonella, listeria, norovirus, and listeria have all been found in used nappies.
  • Disposable nappies are filled with chemicals (including polymers that absorb liquids) which are toxic for the environment.
  • It's still not known how long a nappy actually takes to decompose, but it's estimated that it could be up to 250 to 300 years!

All of these factors combine to make disposable nappies and incontinence waste products a threat to both health and the environment. Take a look at our infographic on the journey of the nappy for a visual representation of this journey and the risks associated with just dumping large volumes of nappy waste in municipal landfill.  

Why safe disposal of nappy and incontinence waste matters: Why safe disposal of nappy and incontinence waste matters for waste and  landfill management

Here are the 2 most important reasons why safe nappy disposal matters:   

1) It's a health risk to employees, residents, and patients

As mentioned above, salmonella, listeria, norovirus, and listeria can all be found in used nappies. If you run a business which is generating large volumes of nappy and incontinence waste, such as a creche, a day care or an elderly care facility -  and you are throwing it into your municipal rubbish bin, you're putting not only your staff at risk of the above mentioned diseases, but also the municipal workers who empty your bins.  Nappy waste - when generated in large enough volumes - is deemed to be hazardous waste (as it may have a detrimental impact on health and the environment).

2) It's an environmental risk  

If you run a business which is generating large volumes of nappy and incontinence waste and you're  disposing of it into the municipal waste stream, you're also contributing to what the EPA estimates to be 200 million tons of untreated faecal matter entering the environment every year. Unless of course your staff are rinsing nappies and disposing of faecal matter in the toilet before throwing the nappies away.  

Both the American Academy of Paediatrics and The American Public Health Association advise that faecal matter and urine should NOT be disposed of in the regular trash, because it can contaminate groundwater and spread disease. But have you ever seen anyone rinse out a disposable, much less dump out the faecal matter into the toilet? 

The millions of tons of untreated waste added to landfill sites annually through nappies can contaminate ground water and viruses excreted in a baby’s faeces could end up leaking into local water supplies. Disposable diapers often contain dyes and dioxin, a carcinogen, which can cause cancer. 

What does your business do with used nappies? 

Instead of “what do you do with used nappies?” the question should rather be “what should  your business be doing with used nappies?  For day-care and creches, this post attempts to answer the question in order to ensure you are being both legally complaint and environmentally responsible when disposing of nappy waste.

Nappy disposal solutions from Initial Hygiene

For old age, frail care, and medical facilities, this blog takes a look at responsible incontinence waste disposal at your medical facility, which is slightly different to the disposal of nappies that come from a non-medical setting such as a creche. 

Large volumes of nappy and incontinence waste require careful handling, collection, packaging, temporary storage, transportation and ultimately disposal in order to ensure that both public health and the environment are protected.

Initial is a registered waste carrier and can therefore offer a safe and hygienic nappy bin service to ensure that nappy and incontinence waste is disposed of in accordance with legislative guidelines.

Download our colour-coded waste disposal posters for your business, and ensure that colleagues always know the right way to dispose of potentially harmful waste. Contact us to find out how Initial can help your hygiene efforts when it comes to nappy and incontinence waste disposal.

Download Colour Coded Waste Disposal Posters

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at blog.initial.co.za, and our Ambius blog - https://www.ambius.co.za/blog. Life outside of Rentokil Initial mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned twelve, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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The Ultimate Guide to Safe Sanitary Waste Disposal from the experts in hygiene, Initial Hygiene South Africa

Download our Ultimate Guide to Safe Sanitary Waste Disposal

Ensure that your organisation meets the legal requirements for the disposal of sanitary waste by learning what constitutes sanitary waste and how you should dispose of it, in this comprehensive guide on the subject.
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