Will a Rising Cost of Disposables Convert Parents to Cloth?

Over the weekend, the news broke about an explosion at a factory in Japan.  You’d think that the main reason that an explosion would be of interesting news would be over the impact.  When we had sawmills explode in British Columbia, the reason that it was so important was because of the impact.  Loss of life, injuries, loss of jobs….  Some of these sawmills are the primary employers in their tiny communities.

The Japanese explosion is newsworthy for a different reason: that factory that exploded only killed one (fortunately for everyone else, but not so fortunate for that man’s family), but people all over the world will feel the impact of that explosion.  According to NBC, that factory produced 20% of the world’s supply of one of the components of disposable diapers.  The other factories that produce the same material are already producing at capacity.

Guess what this means?  Twenty percent less of the stuff needed for making disposable diapers.  Anyone with even a minimal knowledge of economics is familiar with the concept of supply and demand.  If the supply of an item cannot meet the demand, prices will go up.  When prices for manufacturing materials go up, so does the finished product.

It’s not unreasonable to expect the cost of disposable diapers to go up a minimum of 20%.  They may go up as much as 25 to 30%.  Disposable diapers are already causing a financial hardship to lower income families.  People are already depending on diaper banks because they cannot afford the cost of disposable diapers.

I’m wondering now how many parents are going to decide that the cost of disposables just isn’t worth it.  But then again, the ones who are truly struggling to pay for disposable diapers right now are not likely to be able to afford the start up costs of buying cloth diapers.

What do you think will happen as a result of this?  Will struggling families reuse disposable diapers even more than some already are?  Or will cloth diaper charities like Cloth for a Cause be inundated with requests for assistance?  (Or something else?)

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. katiescharms says:

    My son is going to be two in a few weeks, so I really can’t see switching to cloth now. Plus, with three kids and a failing septic system, I just couldn’t see doing the extra laundry that cloth would entail.

  2. Amara Cohen says:

    I was a little concerned that it was chemical factory explosion (diapers are made of what?)!

    • To be honest, the factory explosion is far less of a shock. Factories using all natural products (like the numerous pulp mill fires in BC over the past year) happen. But, yeah, the products used to make diapers have already been banned from tampons because of the association with Toxic Shock Syndrome. I don’t feel good about having those things constantly against my baby’s bottom.

  3. I love them cloth diapers, my 11 yo daughter used them when she was a baby and yes, it was a big saving. Our government around here provides newborn babies cloth diapers and other necessities…hope that gets around to others as well. 🙂

  4. I considered doing cloth because of the cost of disposable diapers. However I just couldn’t make myself make that commitment of keeping up with the laundry. I respect anyone who can make that commitment and save a little money at the same time.

  5. Diapers are so expensive. We are using disposables, but my daughter is potty training and we’re using cloth for that

  6. I think, like anything else, there will be a rise in cloth diaper users due to the price. However Cigarettes are expensive as heck and yet people still smoke….I know some people quit because of the rising cost, but a lot still didnot. They started rolling their own cigarettes or smoke a cheaper brand… I think diapers will be about the same…laziness will keep disposables in business

  7. I used cloth for my 8 year old son, and do not for my 9 month old daughter. I find the cost of diapers way more expensive now than when I got them years ago (even though the newer ones are much cooler). I have to see the overall affect on the price. It’s only one of the components, but effectually, it may only be a couple of cent per diaper increase. I also shop at Costco, which tends to save me over retail stores.

  8. I can see from the comments below that we really need to educate more about cloth diapering 😉 I have two extra loads of laundry a week…. that’s it. Considering that my laundry went from two/three loads a week before a baby to more like 5/6 after a baby… another two for diapers is really a moot point. As for the price – cloth is far cheaper even if you use only premium diapers… it can be as little as the cost of a couple months of sposies if you really want to save!

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