Clean and green: New flushable diaper is promoted as eco-friendly

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Andy Starnes, Post-Gazette
Milo Smith, 1, of Friendship models a pair of gDiapers' outer pants.
By Sally Kalson
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bags of sopping, smelly diapers have long been an occupational hazard of parenthood, not to mention a mainstay of landfill tonnage and laundry loads.

Now there's a flushable diaper on the market that hopes to make rank diaper pails a thing of the past and help save the planet as well.

gDiapers starter disposable diaper kit.
Click photo for larger image.

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gDiapers -- the "g" is for "green" -- not only flush, but the manufacturer says they contain no plastic or latex, no elemental chlorine, perfumes, inks or dyes; that they biodegrade in 150 days, compared to 500 years for a plastic diaper, so even if tossed in the trash they're still better for the earth; and that wet diapers (not soiled ones) also make for good compost.

"I'm a big fan," said J. Joey Smith of Friendship, who has been using gDiapers since last May, when she lived in New York and found them at Whole Foods Market.

"I love cloth diapers, but they do stink," Ms. Smith said. "I'm also an environmentalist so any product that's kind of hip and good for the environment is awesome."

The flushables contain the baby's output pretty well, she said, as long as they're changed a little more often than disposables would be. They also flush easily for the most part, she added, but not all plumbing is up to the task.

"I just took a trip to New York and I only clogged two toilets," she said with a laugh.

The flushables are part of a burgeoning trend toward eco-parenting, with moms and dads seeking out more natural products that are safer for babies and the planet. Disposable diapers made by such companies as Seventh Generation and Tushies also boast purer ingredients, and several companies (Kushies and Green Mountain, for example) make flushable diaper liners to be used with cloth diapers for easier cleanup.

gDiapers consists of three parts: colorful outer pants with a Velcro closure in the back; snap-in nylon liners; and flushable pads. The used pads are removed from the liner, stripped apart by hand, dropped into the toilet, stirred with a "swishstick" to break up the contents, and flushed. The outer pants and nylon liners are washed and reused.

Correct use takes a little practice. The company Web site, www.gdiapers.com, offers detailed instructions, plus a toll-free number for getting help from a real live person.

The gDiapers system isn't new. It's been in use in Australia and Tasmania for 18 years. That's where Jason and Kimberly Graham-Nye discovered it, while living in Sydney. They bought the foreign rights, came up with a new name, moved to Portland, Ore., green capital of the U.S.A., and launched the company.

The product made its American debut last spring, and by November had sold a million diapers, according to marketing manager Michelle Schnoor.

Locally, gDiapers are in their infancy, available for just a few weeks at Whole Foods in East Liberty and Good Life Market on Banksville Road. They're also sold online at the company Web site, and the East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze expects its first shipment next week.

A starter kit retails for about $25 for two pairs of washable pants with nylon liners, 10 flushable pads and a swish stick. Packages of 40 small pads or 32 larger ones sell for about $14.50.

"The goal is to give people a chance to use them without a huge initial investment," said Ms. Schnoor. She said the ongoing cost is equivalent to that of "green" disposable diapers.

"We're about 15 percent more than conventional disposables," she said. "That's about a latte a week."

Kim Wynnyckyj, marketing director at Whole Foods, said customers had asked the store to carry gDiapers.

"There's been a pretty strong interest in them," she said. "The feedback so far has all been positive."

Jessica Halsband, manager of Good Life Market and a new mom, said she stocked gDiapers for herself and doesn't know anyone else who's using them yet.

"Out West they're really hot, but nobody here knows about them," she said.

For those who worry that their creaky plumbing or septic system might not handle the flush, Ms. Schnoor emphasizes that consumers need to "know their toilets."

Mickey Young of Greenfield says her plumbing couldn't take the contents all at once. Each diaper required two flushes, but she didn't mind that. A bigger problem was fit -- the size recommended for her son had a tendency to gap. She wrote the company, which sent her a prototype to try.

"It worked OK most of the time, but they're not as foolproof as regular disposable diapers," Ms. Young said.

Even so, she likes the concept of flushable diapers and intends to try them again this summer, when the warm weather requires less outer clothing.

"I just really like the idea of using something that goes down the toilet instead of sitting in a diaper pail or landfill."


Sally Kalson can be reached at skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610.


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