Are Diapers Recyclable? (And Are Diapers Biodegradable?)

Diapers have been around for a considerable number of years, and without a doubt, they have helped us manage human waste and keep the babies tidy. This is why they are used today by almost everyone nursing babies or taking care of the elderly who are incapable of doing their potty business.

While diapers help us in many ways, they may also be causing problems to our environment in multiple ways. Due to their frequent use, we must consider what effects these diapers may have on our environment. This will allow us to make informed decisions about a more sustainable means of managing human waste.

This is why this post considers some salient points about diapers as it relates to the environment we all live in. We know you can’t wait to get the full gist about the connection between diapers and the environment. So, without much ado, let’s slide in and enjoy!

Can You Recycle Diapers?

Whether or not you can recycle diapers is a crucial question to ask at this point because of its frequent use and the potential of turning out to be one of the biggest landfill materials in America.

For instance, this research says a baby uses more than 2000 diapers in its first year of birth. If you multiply this by the number of babies around and consider that babies will require diapers until they are potty trained, you will see why this is an important question.

But then, what’s the true position?

It may be impossible to recycle diapers. Though reusable diapers are capable of going through multiple stream recycling, this is not the same for disposable diapers.

Disposable diapers have been designed for a single-use, after which they are to be trashed. Though these disposable diapers have multiple parts in them that may be capable of recycling, it is unhealthy to do so. This is because once used; diapers will be contaminated with human waste. Recycling this kind of thing that is already contaminated with human waste will pose many health risks to the recyclers and even the general public.

So, the best thing to do is to exclude diapers from the list of recyclable or accepted things for recycling by local or national recycling stations.

Following this, you are not supposed to toss your used diapers in the curbside recycling bin. The best thing after use is to trash it. But then, you still have to trash your used diapers the right way. Don’t know how to do this? Relax, we will tell you about it later in this post.

Are Diapers Biodegradable?

If something is not recyclable, humans sometimes find some comfort in the fact that the same thing may not take time to biodegrade. For diapers, we have already seen that they are not recyclable, but are they biodegradable, and if they are, how long does this take? Let’s find out together!

Unfortunately, diapers are not biodegradable. If at all they will biodegrade, the estimated time a diaper will take will be around 500 years. This is an extremely long time for something as frequently used as diapers to biodegrade.

The reason this is so is not farfetched. Though diapers may look soft, they are made with plastics and materials derived from a petroleum product.

An average diaper contains petrolatum, polyester, stearyl alcohol, thermoplastic polymer, fluff pulp, polyacrylate polymer, fragrance, and many more products of a similar kind. As you might have observed, many of these materials are either derived from plastics or petroleum products, taking an extremely long time to break down.

Are Diapers Compostable?

Sadly, you cannot compost diapers. To compost diapers, you must be sure that they will break down in a relatively short time. However, an average diaper, because of the plastic and petroleum product materials they are made with, can take up to 500 years before breaking down. Without a doubt, you can’t wait for that long to see your used diapers get composted.

So the best thing to do is not nurse the idea of putting your used diapers in the compost bin.

Can You Throw Away Diapers In The Recycling Bin?

Diapers should not be thrown into the recycling bin. As you have seen above, they are not recyclable, so there’s nothing a used diaper is doing in the recycling bin. By putting them in the recycling bin, you are only creating problems for the recycling station whose staff have to go through the trouble of sorting your diapers from the recyclable materials.

The bad news about putting your diapers in the recycling bin is that you might end up contaminating the whole recyclable materials. Always remember that these diapers contain human waste, and once they come in contact with other materials, they contaminate them. 

Are Diapers Bad For The Environment?

Yes, diapers are bad for the environment. But then, how is this so?

If you consider the fact that diapers are not accepted for recycling and that they take up to 500 years to biodegrade, you will begin to understand the risk they pose to the environment. Also, because a baby will use around 2000 non-recyclable and non-biodegradable diapers in a single year, you will understand better.

Diapers are making up one of the most found materials in landfills today. Generally, after diapers are used, they have lost their value and are disposed of in the garbage and then to the landfill. While in the landfill waiting in line for 500 years to decompose, they may be displaced by the flood to unwanted areas like the sea, where they won’t just contaminate the water but may also be consumed by aquatic animals.

Recall that these diapers are majorly made of plastic and petroleum materials, so you can guess what kind of danger they pose to these sea animals.

In all, diapers are bad for the environment. Until we find a sustainable alternative, we may decide to cut down on disposable diapers and go for reusable ones. This will help cut down on diaper waste and save our environment.

How Do You Dispose Of Diapers?

Though some cloth and reusable diapers are still in use today, the most common ones are non-reusable diapers. This is probably because of the convenience and eases these non-reusable diapers offer. The problem, however, is that once they are used, they need to be disposed of. Even if you are using reusable diapers, you will one day need to dispose of them because they are old or worn out. But then, how do you properly get this done? We have the right answer for you below.

In disposing of used diapers, there are four steps to follow. The steps are explained below.

Step 1: Dump The Content Of The Diaper In A Toilet:

This is the first step after removing the diaper from your kids or elderly ones. Usually, if the user had only peed in it, there is no need for this step. If the user had pooed in it, you should ensure that the content is dumped in a nearby toilet.

Many people skip this step because they consider the whole diaper as fecal waste, but this is not true. Though there is no further use for a used diaper, if you dump it with the fecal content in the waste bin, it will pose some health challenges to those nearby. So, help keep people’s health in check by dumping the content of the used diaper in a nearby toilet.

After dumping the content, you should also rinse the diaper. This will ensure that the left-over feces is washed off to the toilet.

Step 2: Wrap The Used Diaper

Wrapping your used diaper after dumping the content in the toilet is a good way to go. By wrapping the used diaper, you ensure that there is no chance created for flies to perch on them and transfer the dirt to somewhere else.

The way to wrap your used diapers is to wrap them like a ball. While wrapping, you should ensure that you roll the outer part of the diaper into itself. After this, you will secure the wrappings with the tabs used to hold the diaper firmly when wearing it for your baby or elder.

By following this step of wrapping your used diaper, you will be able to firmly secure it and create no room for flies to perch on it.

Step 3: Seal The Diaper In A Container

This is a very important thing to do. Though before this stage you have emptied the diaper’s content into the toilet, this does not mean that the diaper will not produce an offensive odor. Usually, the pee or feces liquid is always absorbed by the diaper that even if you empty the diaper’s content, the liquid will remain there. Without a doubt, this liquid or pee can give out an offensive odor to the environment.

To prevent and keep your surroundings from smelling, you should secure the used diaper in a container. There are numerous ways you can go about this. Some of the ways are given below.

  • Use A Diaper pail: As the name suggests, a diaper pail has been specifically designed to contain your diapers. Usually, people keep a diaper pail indoor and drop used diapers until it is filled up for disposal. Luckily, diaper pails have coverings that have been designed to trap odor. So, you can always employ it when you need somewhere to put your used diaper.
  • Use A Ziploc Bag: Of course, Ziploc bags are known to many people in America today. The good news is that you can use them to securely contain your used diapers. Ziploc bags have also been designed to trap odor, so you have nothing to worry about your environment smelling bad. The problem, however, is that getting Ziploc bags may be expensive to keep up with, as you would need to upgrade once your baby starts using diapers of larger sizes.

Other things you can use to seal the diapers are

  • Grocery bag (plastic)
  • Doggie bags
  • Airsick bag

Step 4: Dispose of The Diaper

After doing everything from step one to three above, then you can be sure that your diapers are fit for disposal. It is always best to dispose of your used diapers at home or a place you have always been to and are familiar with the environment.

Nonetheless, in case you are not at home or any place familiar, you can also dispose of your diapers in the following places

  • Public bathroom
  • Trash can in a park
  • Trash can in an airplane
  • Outdoor garbage can

for the sensitivity of others, you should avoid disposing of your diapers in the following places

  • Enclosed or small places
  • Your friends’ bathroom
  • Your doctor’s office
  • A place there is no trash receptacle

These are all the steps you have to take to ensure that you have securely disposed of your diapers. Skipping any of these steps will result in improperly disposing of your diapers. This can cause a lot of health risks to you and those around you.


Diapers may be one very effective way to manage the mess your baby or other people are producing. Still, they can also be potentially dangerous to our environment if not properly managed.

This is why you have to contribute your quota to seeing that your used diapers are properly disposed of by following the steps we have enumerated above. The best you can do is help save the environment and others’ health by taking proper care of your used diapers.


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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.