Can disposable diapers be composted?

The great diaper guide: Everything about disposable diapers

A European child needs an average of 5000 to 6000 diapers to dry. Most parents use disposable diapers. A huge mountain of rubbish - it's worth taking a closer look.

But what types of diapers are there in the disposable diapers? Although Pampers is the market leader, it has long since ceased to be the only provider. How good are the others? What are diapers made of? What do they cost and where can I get the cheapest? Our guide will answer your questions and give you tips on where to find the right diaper for your baby.

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As soon as you start to deal with the topic of (disposable) diapers, you will notice how huge and confusing the market has become. Maybe a good thing, because the countless variants of the popular Pampers may be practical. However, many Pampers varieties are on the one hand quite expensive and on the other hand the ingredients are not really justifiable. Cheap diapers from the drugstore are sometimes even better.

And then there are also the eco diapers, the selection of which is also increasing steadily. We explain the differences. A detailed comparison with the evaluation of ingredients, practical tests and prices can be found in the table below in the article.

The most important findings in advance

  • THE perfect disposable diaper does not (yet) exist - try it out!
  • A distinction is made between conventional and eco diapers.
  • Conventional diapers are more damaging to the environment and are therefore more absorbent. Eco diapers do not hold up as well and are on average more expensive, but more environmentally friendly.
  • The diapers from Pampers, Rewe, Lidl and Amazon have questionable ingredients that baby skin comes into contact with.
  • Pampers do pretty well in use. Most of the varieties are expensive and the range on offer is confusing.
  • The cheapest conventional diapers without questionable ingredients are from DM and Rossmann. Edeka Gut & Cheap diapers are better to use.
  • The harmless Lillydoo is cheaper than most Pampers varieties and has a pretty good price-performance ratio. But it is not organic.
  • Some eco diapers are largely biodegradable, others only 40%. Many still contain a petroleum-based absorbent core. There is no such thing as an eco-diaper that is completely compostable.
  • Some eco diapers are even cheaper than Pampers and Lillydoo. The cheapest is that from DM, but it is hardly biodegradable. The most expensive is the fair diaper, which in turn scores particularly well in terms of its degradability.
  • You can get the cheapest diapers in the Sparabo, at special offers or in the drugstore (own brands).

These types of diapers are available on the market

  1. Conventional disposable diapers
  2. Eco diapers / bio diapers
  3. Alternatives

1. Conventional disposable diapers

Even if disposable diapers such as Pampers, Lillydoo, Babylove or those from the discounter feel like natural cellulose, the standard diapers hardly contain any. Because they mostly consist exclusively of synthetic (i.e. artificially produced) materials, which are often obtained from petroleum and take 500 years to break down.

The outer skin of a conventional diaper is made of polyethylene, the absorbent core is made of fleeces (polyethylene, polypropylene) that are reinforced with superabsorbent granules made of polymers.

To make them look white, the diapers are bleached and sometimes optical brighteners are also used. Some contain organohalogen compounds. The inner surface of the diaper is sometimes made nice and cozy with plasticizers. It can also contain a lotion, which often contains fragrances, dyes and petroleum-based paraffins.

Some of these ingredients have been shown to be of concern. With others, you are not sure whether they will have long-term effects. Still others are considered harmless. So it happens that conventional diapers can score “very good” and “good” when it comes to the ingredients, even though they are completely artificial. So it's worth taking a closer look.

And in terms of price, there are also huge differences. Over the course of the first 3 years, the choice of diaper can make a difference of several hundred to a thousand euros on your account. The following price comparison looks at conventional diapers and cloth diapers (as of 2019).

2. Eco diapers / bio diapers

If you want to reduce the impact on the environment, you can use the eco-diaper from Moltex, Naty or DM. But be careful: any diaper that consists to a greater or lesser extent of renewable raw materials can be called eco-diaper. The pulp used must be FSC certified.

Contrary to what you might think, no organic diaper is yet completely biodegradable. The proportion of rotting materials varies between 40 and 80 percent. Closures, cuffs and absorbent core are usually left out. But at least.

Unfortunately, many eco diapers do not keep you as dry as conventional diapers can. They are also more expensive. You have to decide for yourself whether the environment is worth the tradeoffs for you.

3. Alternatives to disposable diapers

When we talk about disposable diapers, the alternatives must of course not be missing either. More and more parents are turning to cloth diapers, because here too the selection is getting better and better. Our article "Cloth diapers as an alternative to disposable diapers" goes into more detail. And diaper-free is also becoming increasingly popular. You can read more about this in the article "Diaper-free - advantages, disadvantages and implementation in everyday life".

This is what a diaper is made of

Whether a conventional diaper or an eco-diaper - the structure of a disposable diaper is actually always the same. It is important what materials the individual layers are made of:

There is a special one right at the baby's bottom soft positionthat the urine as quickly as possible to theReceiving fleeceand the Distribution fleeceforwards. The latter distributes it as evenly as possible over the wholeAbsorbent core- the heart of the diaper. For most models, this also contains a Superabsorbent granules. Around there is another (more or less) dense locationthat protects clothing from waterlogging and at the same time remains breathable.

Conventional diapers and eco diapers in comparison

Below you will find a clear comparison of the most common diapers on the market, divided into conventional diapers and eco diapers. We had never looked at diaper components and prices in such depth even before doing our research, and we were quite surprised about some things. But see for yourself.

For the comparison we have chosen the price for size 2 (if available) without shipping costs in the currently cheapest variant.

Summary table - conventional diapers

Summary table - eco diapers

* For the most part, we have used the ÖKO-TEST Toddler Yearbook - Edition 1/2018 for ingredients and practical tests. The practical test from the Ökotest consists of 2 parts: laboratory test (absorption speed, fluid leakage and rewetting) and parent test (handling, moisture retention, wearing comfort and softness / skin-friendliness).

The ratings for untested diapers come from the manufacturer's information on ingredients (if available) and experience reports from the Internet (Amazon and other sales sites, various forums, blog entries).

How to find the right diaper for your baby

If you ask 5 parents which diaper they find particularly good, you will likely get 5 answers. Precisely because every child and every family is different, it is of little use to seek advice from friends.

So before you stock up on a recommended type of diaper,Think in advance what is particularly important to you in a diaper.Then take a look at the table, buy the smallest pack of your favorites (sometimes there are even free sample packs) and try out which diaper is best for your child and your needs. You may need one type of diaper for the day and another for the night.

Only when you know exactly what works can you browse the offers and buy larger packages at a good price. But always make sure that you don't bunker too much of one size. Because some babies grow out faster than their parents ever dreamed of.

Criteria for a good diaper

Even if the criteria for a good diaper are similar, parents are often very different things important. Some swear by a pretty design and a fluffy surface. For some, leak protection is most important, others have to make sure that the diaper is skin-friendly. Still others put the ecological idea in the foreground.

What a good diaper is and what isn't depends entirely on your preferences:

  • Fit / leak-proof
    Especially important for very strong or very slim babies. Both the adjustability on the stomach and the leg cuffs are important here. The height on the back is also a criterion. If the diaper does not fit properly, it will leak.
  • absorbency
    Absorbent cores with superabsorbent granules are petroleum-based. Those made from natural materials do not last as long. If you don't change your diaper at night or have a baby that produces large amounts of urine or stool, you need a particularly absorbent model. For others, normally absorbent diapers are often sufficient.
  • Harmlessness of the ingredients
    If you do not want your baby to come into contact with substances of concern, you should pay attention to the ingredients. In this point, of course, eco-diapers are best. But there are also big differences with conventional diapers. Pampers are usually not the best choice. (See table)
  • Ecological ingredients
    If you want to reduce the impact on the environment, look for diapers that are largely biodegradable. However, these usually cost more and often do not hold out as well.
  • price
    Those who have little money will find the price particularly important. Good to know that there are also safe diapers for babies for little money. You just need to know where.
  • Humidity indicator
    Especially useful at the beginning, when the liquid milk stool does not yet smell that strong. Later you can actually see the diaper when it is full.
  • Feel
    For children with sensitive skin, tolerance and softness are certainly an issue. With all the others, it usually only plays a role for the parents, who equate softness with quality.
  • optics
    Everyone likes attractive prints. But whether they are necessary remains to be seen. After all, it needs printing ink, which sometimes even contains pollutants. At least the front and back should be distinguishable.

Where can I buy diapers particularly cheaply?

If you want to save money on diapers, you will not be able to avoid price comparisons. Experience has shown that you save the most if you pay attention to special offers in shopping brochures or use discount coupons. Usually a 10-20% discount is included.

Some types of diapers are also available by subscription. Even Amazon offers diaper subscriptions with a 20% discount via Amazon Prime, not only for their own brand Mama Bear, but also for Pampers or the Moltex eco diaper. You can get Lillydoo diapers for a particularly low price directly from as a subscription.

Otherwise, the diaper truck or factory outlet is an alternative. There the B-goods (diapers with small quirks) of certain brands are sold particularly cheaply.

The private labels at Rossmann or DM are still the cheapest. However, here you have to test whether your child can tolerate them at all.

frequently asked Questions

What size diaper does a newborn baby have?

Most manufacturers use a size 1 diaper only up to about 3 kg. As a result, most newborns need size 2 diapers very quickly.

Whether your baby fits a size or not depends not only on their weight but also on how they are built. If it is rather slim and large, a smaller size can fit it even longer. A more neat baby sometimes needs the larger size, although the specified weight has not yet been reached. It is very similar with baby clothing.

If a diaper keeps leaking even though you change it often enough, it is usually time to buy the next size.

How often should i change diapers?

There is no hard and fast rule here, except that you should change your bowel movements immediately to avoid sore buttocks. If your baby was only peeing, it depends on the amount of urine, the capacity of the diaper, and your baby's skin.

Usually every 3-4 hours is enough, at night some parents leave their children in the same diaper for up to 12 hours.

How many diapers does a baby need per day?

That depends entirely on age and drinking habits and a little bit on the daily form. A breastfed baby who drinks well may or may not have thin stools up to 10 times a day. However, if you have a bowel movement, you should always change your diaper immediately. This is why newborns and infants sometimes need up to 12 diapers a day.

If a toddler only has a bowel movement 1-2 times a day, 6 diapers are sometimes enough. If, for whatever reason, she drinks a lot or has diarrhea, it can of course be more.

For older children, the number of diapers needed depends entirely on whether they are already dry. It is not uncommon for children from 3 years of age to still need diapers during the day and / or at night. You can expect about three diapers on average, but maybe only one or none at all.

When does my baby need the next diaper size?

If the diaper suddenly keeps overflowing or if it is difficult to close on the stomach, you need the next size.

How many diapers does a child need to dry out?

If you only use disposable diapers and your child gets dry by around 3 years of age, you will have used around 5,000 diapers. If it takes longer to get clean, it can be 6,000. If you only use disposable diapers as a backup for cloth diapers or diaper-free, it is of course significantly less.

Why do some diapers leak?

There can be various reasons for a diaper leaking. If it has worked so far, your baby may either need a bigger size or they may just have more urine or bowel movements right now. Even a diaper that is too large can leak if it slips.

If the diaper generally leaks frequently, the absorbent core could be too weak or the fit does not correspond to your child's physique (leg or abdominal cuffs). Or maybe you just need to change your diaper a little more often.

How long does a conventional diaper take to rot?

A normal diaper, such as a Pampers, takes about 500 years to break down into its chemical components. This is especially a problem if it is not incinerated but dumped or even ends up in the ocean. Toxic gases are also produced during combustion.

Mostly compostable diapers take about 42 to 84 days to rot. Non-degradable components such as closures or petroleum-based super suction cores rot just as slowly as conventional diapers.

In which garbage can do disposable diapers belong?

All disposable diapers, including eco diapers, belong in the household waste (residual waste), are mostly incinerated and only sometimes dumped in dumps. You can also let organic diapers, which are largely biodegradable, rot in your own compost. However, you then have to sieve out non-rotting components, such as adhesive seals.

The organic waste bin is taboo. In some communities, diapers are even hazardous waste because the super-absorbent absorbent cores interfere with waste incineration.

Why are eco diapers not allowed in the organic waste bin?

There are strict regulations for what is allowed in the organic waste bin. After all, the components come back into the nutritional cycle via the earth. Up to now, no organic diaper is completely degradable. In addition, there are feces that potentially contain germs. Therefore, even organic diapers cannot be composted on a large scale. And even at home, the amount of diapers alone should make your compost overflow quickly.

Are there 100% recyclable diapers?

No, it doesn't exist yet. At least a small remainder of 10-20% remains. The organic manufacturers (e.g. fair diaper) are working on it.

Which diapers are vegan?

There are some, e.g. Fairwindel, Swilet, Lillydoo. However, vegan does not necessarily mean organic. Because petroleum products are also vegan.

How and where do I best store diapers?

Diapers also suck moisture out of the air. With normal humidity of up to 60% this is not a problem. In general, however, the following applies: store in a dry place at room temperature and ideally also dust-free.

Tip on the side:Be careful with empty plastic packaging. Like all plastic bags, toddlers sometimes pull them over their heads and can suffocate.

Where are diapers produced?

That is not exactly to be found out. Pampers has locations around the world, but some plants are also in Germany. Lillydoo advertise being a German product. The eco diapers have some regional products and a few from other European countries such as Switzerland, France or Finland.However, it is not entirely clear where exactly these can be produced.


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About the author: Anke is a qualified computer scientist and has been with Babelli since 2017. Her passion: unraveling complicated medical content and making it understandable. That is why she is our medical editor for pregnancy and breastfeeding. When she's not tackling the next exciting topic for us, she has her hands full as the favorite mom of a pug-loving daughter (5). She finds her inner balance at the latest when walking along the Havel.