Month 24: Poop Should Go to Sewage Treatment Not to Landfills; No Matter if You EC or Not

I remember when recycling was just gaining steam.  I was a child and I couldn’t get my mom on board.  To her it was unnecessary work and wasn’t an issue.   The problem is that our modern conveniences have encouraged bad habits and made us not see that the issue is astronomically big and getting bigger.     Have a look at this video The Story of Stuff.

See, we can all fathom a hundred, a few thousand, but millions get difficult, billions in the realm of “bigger than millions” and anything  after that is really unfathomable.     I am overwhelmed at just thinking about all the tampons and sanitary napkins I’ve trashed (tampons can’t always be flushed by the way).    20 years times 6 per day (average every 4 hours) for an average of 5 days for 12 cycles a year.   That’s 7200 tampons or napkins for just ME.   In 2009 there were 155.6 million women in the USA.   My calculator just wept.

MegaPenny is one of my favorite “numbers” site because it helps visually define the really big numbers.   What does a million look like?  A billion? After you look at the pennies stacking up, imagine those are diapers, tampons, toothbrushes, or paper towels…  anything that can be thrown out and does not biodegrade.

Image: Megapenny. 1 Billion. These are just tiny PENNIES! Imagine 5 Schoolbuses.

We women must deal with our menstrual needs, but the “convenient”  and “modern” way is wasteful and unsanitary (as far as where it goes after we are done staying clean), and it is really hard to see the bigger picture when disposable all you’ve experienced and done.   I know that we don’t like to think about it–that we bleed blood–but that’s the problem.   We don’t think about all the blood we throw into the trash, never mind the paper, wrapping, and boxes.     And not just in our own private trash, in public trash too.     We’ve seen the sanitary bins in the bathrooms; and doesn’t it make you shudder just a bit to put your hands near it?    How many women have wrapped a pad or tampon in 20 layers of toilet paper just to hide and bury it? How many careless women have you seen leave their…items…in inappropriate places with no thought to the next woman using the toilet?

Yet, cloth menstrual pads or cups  or reusable sponges are seen as more unsanitary and more difficult.  But are they really?   Is our perspective needle calibrated properly?       The truth is reusable products are more sanitary because you can not just leave them behind, (okay you can, but would you if your habit was to take them home?) you must deal with them properly.  You can not ignore something you must take with you.   There are countless shapes, sizes, and types of pads and cups to fit any woman’s preferences and need (even problems with incontinence).    I used cloth pads of my own making post-partum and it felt good to sit on (no plastic sticking to my legs or making me sweat more) and the blood washed away to the sewer where it got treated, did not sit rolled in plastic, and  was not locked into “revolutionary technology”.    Yes, it is blood.  So?    I don’t shy away from a shirt bloodied up from a nosebleed or underwear/pants soiled by a period leak.  They get washed…often by hand!    It was not hard to use cloth, but it WAS hard to start and get over the unspoken taboo.   I can honestly say that I tried the cup but had a few hilarious issues with trying to use it (I haven’t given up, I was just getting the hang of it when I got pregnant…twice 🙂 ), and really had to mentally push myself past the apprehension to go cloth pads.

What does this have to do with EC, disposables and cloth?

What does this have to do with EC, disposables and cloth?    You know, a lot of people used to take their disposable diapers home to toss to avoid stinking up someone’s trash as a matter of courtesy, but that is no longer expected behavior.    Once it is in the trash it is out of sight and out of mind.     I have also seen people  tightly roll solid poop up in a diaper and throw it into a public bin because it was too inconvenient (or unthinkable) to take it to the toilet.   Sanitation has become a thoughtless task.    It is not in our backyard, so easy to forget about (Citarum River).    Where is your city sewage treatment center or landfill?

Read More:

Floating Trash: Citarum River Indonesia

It can really seem that when an ECer or cloth diaper user talks about disposables that they are judging individuals for using them.    That isn’t so.   We all grew up with disposables.  We’ve been in them and we’ve used them at some point either on siblings, other babies, or our own.   We know.   Every single one of us knows everything there is to know about disposables  (we know about the cost, the chemicals, the rashes, the plastic, the landfill dirty secret), except we don’t know how to fathom two exceedingly important things.   The sanitation problem and sheer numbers.

Change Habits Through Thoughtfulness

I’ve seen estimates of disposable diaper use between 13 and 27 million diapers PER year in the United States alone.   That’s a lot of poop and pee in the trash that goes right to the landfill.  Every time you walk by a trash can anywhere you are very likely to be passing by fermenting excrement encased in plastic and surrounded by disposable wipes.   Add to that the growing market of pull-ups and little swimmers…     And yet can any of us really picture that amount?    I have difficulty visualizing the 7200 pads and tampons I’ve used!  There is no need for me to post specific numbers because we’ve long since reached the point of “unfathomable,” and thus it isn’t in the realm of real.    13 million or 27 million…does it really matter which is correct?    It’s easy to forget and disregard a number that you can’t put into context.  So easy in fact that advertisers bank on it.      Cloth diaper users aren’t off the hook either.   They’ve put the waste in places where it can get to sewage treatment, do not send plastic to the landfills, and pass on the same cloth to the next child and the children of others.  Thumbs up.     However, laundering does cost energy and water and that also needs to be considered seriously.

Video:  National Geographic’s “The Human Footprint” — Diaper Excerpt (3,796)
Watch the full 92 Minute film here:  The Human Footprint

I am proud to say that I recycle our paper, plastic, and send bottles to the redemption center.   I am also proud that I have never used a disposable diaper, pull-up, or little swimmer on Itty Bitty.    I am also proud to say that based upon the advice and anecdotes of cloth diaper users I decided that less was more and great-great grandmas old fashioned type diapers were the most economical and the easiest to launder, fastest to dry and the longest lasting to pass on beyond my childbearing time.   So thank you!      And thanks to those who shared the lost wisdom of Diaper Free practices, I was able to cut down a very significant carbon footprint into a much smaller sand disturbance.     I am sad to say that it took me way too long to switch to cloth pads, but I keep trying to do better with reducing waste.   I’ve got a way to go, but it does feel good to not add more disposables into the already bursting system.

I do not judge you reader, but I do ask this.

If you use disposables, please do a little something more — up the sanitation — and put as much solid waste as you can into the toilet where it belongs.     Do this and there won’t be a need for double wrapping in plastic bags or using the diaper genie and its inserts.     Recycle your plastic bags at your local supermarket instead.      Use cloth wipes for pees and, if you must, disposable wipes only for poop.  If they are flushable wipes, all the better!   Begin the potty learning process much earlier than modern methods instruct so you reduce your disposable use by years and save money and stress too.    Buy a cloth swim diaper instead of swimmers…trade momentary convenience for re-usability.    Ban pull-ups and rediscover old fashioned training pants.    It doesn’t have to be all at the same time.     One change at a time can make a big difference.

If you use cloth diapers.   Rethink how you launder, are extra washes really necessary?  Is hot always needed every time?    Try to choose or suggest non-synthetic fabrics when possible.  Have a few pre-folds and flats in your stash rotation.   You too can start the pottying process earlier than is currently “normal”.   You’ve already broken the mold, what’s one more right?  Rather than double stuffing, try the Little Potty.  See where it takes you.

Consider the road less traveled.

Not everyone is trying to judge, most are just are excited about rediscovering the lost scenery.


Mind Bender:   I was reading a blog (A Not So Turkish Life: Change is Good) where a woman was living in a country where she could not buy a cloth diaper locally only disposables…despite the fact that her country was a high producer of cloth diapers!

About Laissez Faire

I am 41...42...43...44, 45, 46 married with two children, two cats, and a dog. Writing is my hobby, and learning and teaching my passions. Books! It used to be that I could devour several books a week when I had the time. I am usually too tired to stray awake these days with two kids. Currently my brain and energy levels have steered me to casual games, writing contests, and some inconsistent blogging.

Posted on October 15, 2011, in IPT, Parenting, Potty Training, Potty Training, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Thankyou for your visit! You write very convincingly, keep it up. The states have been ECing a good while, from my perspective. Might be worth using diaperfree in your links to find someone near you. I’m just kicking off a support group in my city in the UK and it’s so wonerful to find other ‘crazy’ parents like me. Keep up your blog, I’ve enjoyed the bit I read, and will come back soon.
    Thanks x

  2. Thank you!!! Very enlightening!!!

  3. I like the article, but as someone who cloth diapers you should know, yes, you do have to use hot water. These things start to smell after a few months anyway, not using hot water makes that happen even faster in addition to it being a breeding ground for germs. Great info about pads and tampons, though. Thanks for the new perspective!

    • Hi! Glad I could inspire! I only needed to do a hot wash once in a while for maintenance of my stash of cloth, not every wash. I had no stink problems, though I also EC so there is less waste involved. I think the amount of hot washes needed varies by water type, diaper type, and amount of soilage, kwim?

  1. Pingback: Month 25: Using Public Facilities Isn’t Scary « Diaper Free…The Other Side of the Moon

  2. Pingback: Month 27: Question–What are the EC Essentials? « Diaper Free…The Other Side of the Moon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: