Orkney Real Nappy Network


The Orkney Real Nappy Network is a project relaunched by Orkney Zerowaste to offer impartial advice and support about buying and using real or reusable nappies.

We do this by providing

• Information and advice at regular events throughout the year and at your home
• Demonstrations to parents and parents-to-be using samples of various nappy types
• A Real Nappy Library
• A network for real nappy users to socialise and share experiences through events and online (Facebook)

What are real nappies?

Real nappies are made of lightweight fabrics, many of which are natural, and can be machine washed and reused over and over again.  They are available in various styles, sizes and are made by different producers, both in the UK and abroad.  You can still use terry squares but many nappies are shaped to fit with easy-to-use fastenings such as Velcro or poppers.  They also come in funky colours and patterns!

Why use real nappies?

Why choose real nappies over disposables?  There are many benefits of choosing real nappies over disposables, for the environment, your wallet and your baby!

Environmental – 

“Did you know that if you are using disposable nappies full time, around half of your bin waste will be made up of used nappies”

We can’t get away from the fact that all nappies, disposable and cloth, have an impact on the environment, however disposable nappies are a single use item which cause a huge problem when they need to be disposed of.  In the Highlands and Islands we dispose of more than 6 million disposable nappies annually (or 3 billion in the UK), and they take 500 years to decompose... Using reusable nappies reduces your household waste, which goes to landfill sites or to the incinerator in Shetland.  Real nappies can be used over and over again.  They can also be used by more than one child and passed on to other families.

There is also a lot we can do to minimise the environmental impact of using real nappies:

• use washable liners & wipes to reduce waste further

• wash nappies at 60ºC and wraps at 40ºC to 60ºC - do not boil wash

• use A-rated appliances to reduce energy and water consumption

• use more environmentally-friendly washing powders

• don't use fabric conditioner - it is unnecessary and it reduces absorbency

• use real nappies for more than one child

• buy second hand nappies where possible

• use organic (non-bleached) products and/or those made from materials like hemp which require less pesticide use than conventional cotton

• There is no need to iron nappies

• Recycle your washable nappies once you have finished with them - you can pass them on to a friend, sell them second hand and if they are past selling/handing down, they can often be sent overseas in collections by organisations like Blythswood or for disaster relief. For really worn out/stained items, there is the clothing bank at your local recycling centre, or you can cut them up and use to boost other nappies or for general cleaning.

Financial –

Using real nappies can save you around £500. The total cost of using real nappies can be half that of using disposables. A 2006 study * has estimated costs from birth to potty for real and disposables nappies as:

• Buying real nappies and washing them at home costs from £182.50 to £359
• Buying disposable nappies costs from £615.16 to £922.74


These costs are based on nappies being used over two and a half years. They are average costs and depend on the type of nappy used and how often disposable nappies are changed. Visit www.wen.org.uk for full details of the study and the assumptions made.

*Environment Agency - "An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies"
see link:  http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/PDF/SCHO0808BOIR-E-E.pdf


For you and your baby -

• Easy to use and comfortable for your baby

• Kind on your baby’s skin.  Real nappies contain no nasty chemicals (disposable nappies contain more than 200 chemicals, some of which are believed to cause cancers or hormonal changes)

• Better air circulation than disposables meaning your baby is kept cooler and fresher.  In fact, latest research shows lowered sperm counts may be due to raised scrotal temperatures in disposables. (The Natural Nursery)

• Convenient to wash and dry

• Real nappies don’t smell as much as disposables when wet or soiled

• Available in a variety of styles, materials and sizes

You will find that some clothing does not fit well when using real nappies on your child, however usually choosing a size up overcomes this.  There are also clothes specially designed to fit over real nappies, often created with the environment in mind by using organic cotton, such as Frugi and Cut4Cloth clothing.

Nappy types
For more information on real nappy types, check Zero Waste Scotland


Example of real nappy, nappy liner and wrap

Washing real nappies

• Flip solids off the nappy and into the loo before putting the nappy in the nappy bucket.
• There is no need to soak or boil wash real nappies
• Wash at 60° washing machine cycle
• Only use 1/3 detergent and non-biological powder
• Do not use fabric softener.  It coats the fibres and makes the nappies less absorbent.
• Dry our nappies ideally on the line (which will make them softer) or inside.  Minimise tumble drying if possible to reduce the environmental impact.

Other ‘green’ tips

  • Rather than using disposable wipes, you can cut up old t-shirts up to create reusable wipes. 
  • You can also make your own reusable nappy liners from an old fleece jumper. Click here for pattern

Local providers

John Scott & Miller sell terry squares, nappy nippers and nappy cover pants.  They can also order shaped totsbots and Bambino Mio Nappies at request.  Worth to check them out before ordering online!

Contact us!

For information or advice about real nappies or borrowing nappies from the library contact our Real Nappy Adviser Sarah De Rees by email  [email protected]

Or join us on 



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