If you're trying to decide about cloth vs. disposable on the basis of which is better for the environment, don't count on the British government to tell you the truth:
A government report that found old-fashioned reusable nappies damage the environment more than disposables has been hushed up because ministers are embarrassed by its findings.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has instructed civil servants not to publicise the conclusions of the £50,000 nappy research project and to adopt a “defensive” stance towards its conclusions.
The report found that using washable nappies, hailed by councils throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them.
To reduce the impact of cloth nappies on climate change parents would have to hang wet nappies out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children, and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 60C.
Ummm, by the way....if you're going to wash cloth diapers at less than 160F (approx. 70C), you may be achieving, uh, a very different kind of "green" before long. What if you were using a diaper service where you're getting different diapers back than you turned in, and you got a letter from the service telling you they'd decided to "cut back" (rather than raising their prices) by using warm water instead of *HOT*. Would you put their diapers on your little one?
My hot water heater is not set to 160, but you can believe that if I were using cloth diapers it would be. It takes boiling water (212) to kill all germs, but every ten degrees below that leaves another layer of viruses and bacteria to which you expose your baby's bottom and your family's health. If you want to use cloth I applaud you, but don't rely on studies from "green" orgs to tell you whether it's really more environmentally friendly. They have an interest in the outcome of the study, and even your government may not want you to know the cold,
hard wet truth.
My "bottom" line: if you want to use cloth diapers because disposable ones cause your baby to have skin problems, or if you like the feel of cloth rather than paper, or if you're concerned about diapers clogging up landfills, or because it saves YOUR family money, then do it. Don't be bamboozled by claims that one has a heftier "carbon footprint" than another. I'd be willing to bet that the organization doing the study miraculously ends up with the result it wanted in the first place.
(second photo from Longenbottoms!)