Let’s say you’re going camping with your family. You’re all packed up and ready to go, when it suddenly hits you that your toddler is still in diapers… and the campsite doesn’t have trash cans.
What do you do? A lot of backpackers and campers burn their trash when there isn’t a better way to dispose of it. But can you burn disposable diapers?
Single-use diapers are made of a variety of materials, including plastic and chlorine, which can release harmful chemicals when burned. So burning disposable diapers is not recommended, and it may even be illegal depending on where you’re located.
We’re going to dig deeper into the health & safety concerns as well as the legalities of burning disposable diapers.
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Is It Safe To Burn Disposable Diapers?
Disposable diapers are made of a variety of materials, including plastic and chlorine. When these materials are burned, they can release harmful chemicals into the air. These chemicals can be bad for the environment and for your own health (and the health of those around you) if inhaled.
The biggest concern with burning diapers is the release of dioxin into the air.
Dioxin is a byproduct of chlorine, and it’s been linked to a variety of health problems, like cancer, endocrine disruption, skin irritation and mild diaper rash, allergic reaction, developmental problems, reproductive difficulties, and more.
And according to this EPA report, burning trash (especially diapers) is one of largest sources of dioxin emissions to the U.S. environment.
So, long story short, it’s not safe to burn disposable diapers.
Is It Legal To Burn Diapers?
In addition to being unsafe, burning trash (including disposable diapers) is also illegal in many places.
The penalties for breaking this law can range from a simple fine to jail time, depending on the severity of the offense.
So, even if you’re in a situation where you can’t find a trash can, it’s still not worth the risk to burn dirty or wet diapers. There are other ways to dispose of them.
How To Properly Dispose of Diapers
Now that we’ve established that you shouldn’t burn your disposable diapers, what should you do with them?
One of the most important steps when you’re getting rid of diapers with solid waste is to dump out any fecal matter before throwing them away. Just dump it into the toilet. This will help to reduce odor and the spread of disease.
After that, you can simply throw dirty diapers in the trash. If there’s a diaper pail available, even better. But if not, a regular trash can will do the trick.
Unfortunately, most diapers don’t decompose very easily, so they’ll likely sit in a landfill for a few hundred years.
If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly option, there are some brands that make disposable compostable diapers. These are made of materials that will break down over time, making them a better choice for the environment.
And, of course, you can also use cloth diapers instead.
Is It Illegal To Throw Away Poopy Diapers?
While it’s not illegal to throw away diapers, you may want to think twice before disposing of them in this manner.
The EPA does not consider diapers to be hazardous waste, but it’s still important to take some precautions before disposing of solid waste or poopy diapers.
As we mentioned before, it’s important to dump out fecal matter or solid human waste before throwing away a diaper. Otherwise, you risk spreading disease and creating an unpleasant odor.
If you do choose to throw away a diaper, be sure to wrap it up tightly in another piece of trash before putting it in the garbage can. This will help to contain any odor and prevent any leaks.
Depending on the type of diaper you buy though, you may have other options for disposal (like composting).
Are Diapers Biodegradable?
Most disposable diapers are not biodegradable. This means that they will not break down on their own over time.
Some brands do make compostable diapers, which will eventually break down. However, these diapers typically cost more than the traditional disposable kind.
If you want to go that route, be sure to check out our list of favorite biodegradable diapers.
How Long Do Diapers Take to Decompose?
Researchers believe it takes up to 500 years for a diaper to decompose. This is a bit of a guesstimate though because disposable diapers weren’t around 500 years ago.
Are Diapers Compostable?
Some diapers are made to be compostable, but most aren’t.
Even if you do purchase compostable diapers, it’s important that you don’t put them in your home compost bin. The high temperatures in a commercial composting facility are necessary to break down the materials in these diapers, and human waste and food waste should not be mixed. It’s safer to leave the process of diaper composting to the professionals.
Many compostable diaper brands offer a service that will take your dirty diapers to be composted professionally.
Can You Recycle Diapers?
Disposable diapers cannot be recycled. If you’re interested in doing more for the planet, you should try cloth diapering instead.
Burning soiled diapers is unsafe and possibly illegal too. If you need to dispose of them, the best way to do so is to throw them in the trash.
For a more eco-friendly option, you can use compostable diapers or cloth diapers instead.