Believe it or not, disposable nappies are made from wood and plastic! The main body of nappies are made from pastics and are held together with glue. The clever part of a nappy is the absorbent pad which is made from a mix of wood pulp and 'super absorbent polymers'. The absorbent part is a chemical called Polyacrylate and is capable of absorbing 30 times its own weight of liquid. When Polyacrylate crystals absorb wetness, they expand into a gel which is how they manage to keep our baby's wetness in. Incidentally, this same material is used to create artifical snow and is sometimes added to soil to increase water absorption, particularly in the cultivation of potted plants.
Some nappies are made specifically for girls or boys and these are slightly more absorbent at the points that tend to get wettest - for boys this is at the front while for girls, this is towards the middle and back.
Disposable nappies have long been criticised for being environmentally unfriendly. These days they do break down in landfill but the process is still extremely slow but at least Polyacrylate prevents content from leaching from landfill sites which is one of the dangers of other disposed chemical products. The other point about the environmental impact of dispoable nappies is the amount of energy that they consume during manufacture and transport to market - far higher than for reusable equivalents.
Over the last few years, the quantityof packaging surrounding food we buy has grown and grown - plastic cartons, film sleeves, cardboard boxes, moulded supports and, in some cases, all of the above! We may be recycling more and more, but why do the supermarkets use so much packaging which we then just throw it in the recycling bins?
Why so much packaging?
How can we help?
Older preschoolers can be taught about different materials and where they come from. They should also be taught about the scarcity of resources and the value of recycling. When we grew up as children, recycling was almost unheard of and we thought there was enough oil to make plastic for generations to come. Only more recently have we realised that the earth's resources are finite, and our children should have this sense of scarcity instilled in them from their earliest years so that consideration for resource use and the importance of recycling just become a part of their everyday thinking.
What steps can we take to help instill this knowledge? On a shopping trip, and when disposing of the resulting packaging and other waste, take the steps outlined below and explain to your little one why you are doing each:-
It's worth doing your bit even if it takes a little extra effort. To really make you feel good, why not save some cartons and boxes and let your little one loose on them. Explain about recycling to them and try to encourage them to recycle too.
Lucky for us, when we want water, we simply turn on the tap and with a gurgle and a whoosh out shoots fresh, clean drinking water. It's simple, its easy and it's free flowing. However, that doesn't mean we should waste water and its the same for our children. Their instinct is to turn the tap on, and leave it running throughout the duration of washing teeth. But, we should guide them while they are young to respect this valuable commodity.
Bathroom: Turn off the tap when washing teeth! Have a shower instead of a full bath! Don't flush the toilet more than you have to - put paper tissues, cotton buds and cotton wool in the bin!
Kitchen: Don't run the dishwasher or washing machine unless its full. Don't rinse fruit and vegetables in running water, use a bowl. Don't wash dishes under running water, use a bowl. Keep a jug (or reuse a bottle!) of cold water in the fridge instead of running the water until it gets cold each time you want a drink.
Garden: Get a water butt for watering flowers in the garden rather than using a hose.
It can be easy and fun to save water if you do it together! And, did you know:
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