Do Diapers Burn? (How to Dispose of Diapers Correctly)

Disposing of dirty disposable diapers is always a concern for parents especially when away from home. It may be tempting to set light on them as a quick way of getting rid of them instead of giving in to the need for a diaper pail! But, in reality, do diapers burn? And, is it legal to burn baby diapers? If you think burning diapers is an eco-friendly solution, think again! 

Disposable diapers can be burned but setting light on them releases harmful by-products such as dioxins. Diapers contain chemicals and plastic linings which create hazardous emissions when burned. Diapers don’t burn easily so you’ll still be left with traces that need to be burned again. 

Many countries including the United States have strict laws and regulations about burning trash at home. In most states throughout America, it’s considered illegal to burn household garbage including baby diapers. Home fires are often inefficient and in most cases, release harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. 

Baby diapers contain both hazardous human waste and chemicals which pollute the environment when burned. Most disposable diapers are made with synthetic materials, including plastic. These materials consist of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and by-products such as dioxins are released when disposable diapers are burned. This becomes detrimental to our health. 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also categorizes disposable diapers as municipal solid waste which means they should be disposed of in landfills. Before deciding to burn your baby diapers at home, make sure you know the laws about open burning in your state. 

How to Prevent Baby Diapers From Burning

A great concern for parents is the flammability of cloth and disposable diapers. The same precaution should be taken as those you would take with the clothes and blankets you use for your baby. Always make sure your baby is kept away from fires, such as the fireplace or gas stoves. 

Keep matches out of the way from smaller children who may be curious about playing with them. Statistics show that the majority of home fires can be triggered by children being left unattended and playing with matches. If your toddler is still wearing diapers while playing with fire, serious injuries will happen if the diapers catch alight. 

If you’re burning trash at home and want to avoid lighting dirty diapers, make sure they’re disposed of in separate waste bins or designated diaper pails.This way, you don’t accidentally burn them with other household waste. 

The Best Way to Dispose of Baby Diapers 

Cloth baby diapers are more flammable than most disposable nappies. While disposable diapers can burn when set alight, it’s not always easy to ignite them or keep them burning. Disposable diapers also don’t burn away completely which means you’ll have to discard what’s left behind.

Burning baby diapers really shouldn’t be an option for a number of reasons already mentioned in my article. Instead, let’s talk about a step-by-step process to dispose of baby diapers correctly. This way, you’re keeping yourself on the right side of the law while keeping the air free of dangerous pollutants that are detrimental to your and everyone else’s health! I’ve already talked about how to dispose of diapers when discussing if diapers expire, however here are the steps revealed more fully.

Step-by-Step Guide to Disposing Baby Diapers Correctly

  1. Remove fecal waste: It’s not healthy to stash fecal waste in the bin or to send it to the landfill site. Clean the dirty diapers by scraping all poop into the toilet. Flush all waste matter away in the toilet.
  2. Rinse: By rinsing the diaper, you’re removing any traces of poop left behind as well as pee.
  3. Wrap up the diaper: Wrap the diaper into a tight ball by rolling it up and using the side tabs to keep the front and back tightly closed. 
  4. Stash in a sealed container: Place the rolled up diaper into a container that’s well-sealed to keep all odors inside. You can use a diaper pail specifically designed for this purpose. Consider some alternatives to a diaper pail as other options for disposing of dirty diapers. If you’re away from home, place the soiled diaper into a plastic bag before disposing it into a waste bin. 
  5. Wash your hands: Make sure to remove any residual fecal matter that may have remained on your hands. Use hand soap and warm water to ensure your hands are thoroughly clean. Alternatively, use hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to clean water and soap. 
  6. Place in the outside trash bin: When the diaper pail is full, tie up the plastic liner tightly and take it out of the pail. Place inside an outside trash bin for emptying and removal to a municipal landfill site. 

When you dispose of dirty diapers in the correct manner as described in the steps above, you’re protecting the health and safety of the people removing waste to landfill sites. By flushing fecal waste down the toilet before rolling up the diaper for disposal, you’re also preventing hazardous waste from leaching into the ground at the landfill which potentially could contaminate groundwater sources.  

Are Baby Diapers Biodegradable?

Not all baby diapers are biodegradable. Single-use or disposable diapers are made with a variety of materials that aren’t environmentally friendly, making it harder for them to decompose naturally. In fact, studies show that it can take up to 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose during which large quantities of toxins are being released into the atmosphere. 

Eco-conscious parents are opting for cloth diapers that are reusable or using disposable nappies made with biodegradable materials. The Andy Pandy Biodegradable Premium Bamboo Disposable Diapers are a good example of an eco-friendly diaper. They’re made with sustainably sourced bamboo which is 87% biodegradable. They’re also free of harmful products such as phthalates, chlorine, latex, and PVC.  

If you’re using cloth diapers, you can insert biodegradable liners such as from Bumpkins. They’re also flushable down the toilet, making it convenient when disposing of them. 

There are a number of great alternatives to disposable baby diapers you can consider if you want to save on using single-use nappies while protecting the environment. 

Recycling Baby Diapers – Can It Be Done? 

Don’t ever be tempted to toss your baby diapers in the recycling bin, even those labeled as biodegradable! Not only is this a serious health hazard but baby diapers are simply not recyclable. 

You may argue that some parts of a single-use diaper are made with recyclable materials and you’re right. But, once it’s contaminated with poop and pee, it becomes unrecyclable. When tossing dirty diapers in the recycling bin, you’re also contaminating other items. 

Cloth baby diapers are reusable so if your greatest concern is for the environment, switch over to this type of diapering and avoid using single-use nappies. You could also practice diaper-free time, saving on the number of disposable diapers used. This way, you’ll be sending less to the landfill site. 

Watch this passionate entrepreneur, Kim Graham-Nye, as she talks about disposable diapers, the damage plastic causes to the environment, and recycling.

Conclusion 

Based on my research, baby diapers can burn but not easily. If you do manage to set them alight, you’ll end up with traces that need to be buried in the ground or tossed into the trash bin. The biggest hazard with burning baby diapers is the damage it causes to the environment and human health. In most countries, it’s illegal to do open burning at home so you’ll also be breaking the law. 

The best practice is to dispose of single-use diapers correctly or to switch over to biodegradable or cloth nappies if you’re an eco-conscious parent.

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