A woman holding a bag full of trash

How to Dispose of Diapers: The Proper Method Hardly Any Of Us Are Using!

If you’re surprised to learn that throwing all dirty diapers into the diaper pail or trash can isn’t the ‘correct’ way to dispose of diapers, you’re not alone. 

While most parents don’t give a second thought to diaper disposal, there are actually super important reasons why we need to think about it, including a potential risk to human health.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to dispose of dirty diapers and why it’s so crucial to do it right.

Why is it important to dispose of dirty diapers properly? 

Not many parents know that we should be putting our babies’ poop in the toilet before disposing of the dirty diapers. Surprisingly, pretty much all diaper packs will have this information in the small print, but it’s not something that’s often discussed, and it should be. 

The main reason why we should be putting our babies’ poop into the toilet and not straight into the diaper pail or trash can is our health. It’s possible if poopy diapers go straight to landfill, that bacteria from these diapers can find their way into the groundwater. 

Shockingly, many viruses can be detected in human fecal matter, so it’s vital that we don’t put poopy diapers straight in the trash. These include the following:

  • Polio
  • Hepatitis
  • Adenovirus
  • Astrovirus
  • Enterovirus
  • Sapovirus 
  • Norovirus
  • Rotavirus

Is throwing away dirty diapers illegal?

Another surprising fact is that putting human waste, including poopy diapers, straight in the trash is against the World Health Organization’s guidelines. It might not technically be illegal, but you should always put your baby’s poop in the toilet first, by either shaking or scraping it in. You’re then fine to put the diaper in your pail or in the trash.

When it comes to wet but not poopy diapers, you can put these straight into your diaper pail.

Try not to throw your dirty diapers away in public places if you can – at home is best. If you’re out and about and need to throw the diaper away, always secure it in a diaper bag or grocery bag and put it in an outdoor trash can. 

How to dispose of your dirty diapers the correct way

  1. Put the poop in the toilet!
    It might not be the nicest job, but putting the poop in the toilet before you dispose of your baby’s dirty diapers is better for our health and better for the planet. 
    To do this, just shake or scrape the poop off and flush away. 
  1. Secure the diaper
    The next step is to make sure it’s wrapped up tight before disposing. The easiest way to do this is to roll the diaper up and fasten it with the sticky side tabs. 
  1. Put the diaper in a sealed bag
    Whether you put the diaper in your diaper pail, a grocery bag, or a trash bag, make sure the container can be sealed. If you’re looking for eco-friendlier ways to dispose of your diapers, check out these biodegradable trash bags or these diaper pail bags, compatible with the Ubbi pail – they’re made with 20% recycled materials. 
  1. Throw away the diaper
    If you’re at home, your bag of dirty diapers will of course go in the trash can when it’s full. But if you’re out for the day or traveling, try to put it in an outdoor public trash can when possible, and hold on to it until then. 
    If you’re flying, ask a flight attendant when and where to dispose of it safely and never throw dirty diapers away in the wilderness; they’ll cause pollution.
  1. Never forget to wash your hands
    It seems obvious, but with diaper changes being far from easy when your little one starts wiggling, crawling, and doing anything and everything in their power to make change impossible, it’s easy to forget to wash your hands. Always give them a 20-second wash and scrub with hand wash or soap if you can. Or, if you can’t get to a sink straight away, use hand sanitizer until you’re able to wash them properly.

Diaper Disposal FAQs

1. Do diapers decompose?

Disposable diapers, as amazing as they are, are pretty terrible when it comes to their impact on the planet. The vast majority of disposable diapers are made with petroleum-based plastics, which take about 500 years to break down. 

And with 20 billion diapers heading to landfill sites each year in the US alone, it’s clear that we’re gonna have to rethink disposable diapers if we’re to protect our planet for generations to come. So what are the alternatives?

Plant-based diapers

Plant-based diapers are certainly en vogue right now, and for good reasons. Whether they’re made from bamboo, wood, or cane, they’re soft and strong and much, much better for the planet. 

Unlike plastic, plant materials are renewable resources. The more we choose plant-based diapers, the less plastic will be heading straight to landfill. One of my favorite plant-based materials is bamboo, which is used by diaper companies such as Dyper, Andy Pandy, Dewor, and Bambo Nature

Bamboo grows super quickly, it’s soft and it’s absorbent, so it’s perfect for diapers. And sometimes, bamboo diapers go a step further to protect our plant – some are biodegradable.


Biodegradable diapers

Biodegradable diapers, unlike plastic ones, break down over time, sometimes in just a few months. Plastic diapers stick around for anything up to 500 years and more while releasing toxic chemicals into the air and ground, so it’s absolutely worth getting biodegradable diapers if you can. 

Not all plant-based diapers are biodegradable diapers, but all biodegradable diapers will be predominantly plant-based, bamboo especially. While these diapers are sometimes a little more expensive, they’re not always. Dyper is one of my favorite budget-friendly biodegradable brands. They even go a step further by using biodegradable packaging.

2. What are the best diaper pails?

There are lots of diaper pails on the market. It’s great to have so much choice, but it can be confusing unless you know what to look for. When searching for the right diaper pail for you, you need to consider the size, price, and look, as well as the pail’s features and reviews.

Check out my roundup of the best diaper pails for 2021, including my favorite budget-friendly pail, the best for odor control, and the best hands-free diaper pail. 

3. How do I dispose of diapers without a diaper pail?

I absolutely love my diaper pail. They look good (most of them, at least), they lock away odors, and save trips to the trash. But if you’re not a fan of diaper pails, here are some alternatives.

  1. A regular trash can

    It’s not gonna lock the odors away as effectively as a diaper pail, but regular trash can house your dirty diapers. You’re likely to need to change it more often though.
  1. Diaper bags

    As long as you don’t mind lots of diaper bags in your nursery, diaper bags on their own are an alternative. Of course, never leave bags around babies and children!

    A pail or trash can are better alternatives, for sure. 

    If you’re looking to be kind to the planet, check out these biodegradable bags. They’re lavender-scented and are heaps better than their plastic counterparts. 
  1. Grocery bags

    Another environmentally-friendly way to dispose of your baby’s dirty diapers is to use old grocery bags. Again, they’re not aesthetically pleasing and you’ll have to take them out pretty often.

4. Do diapers go in the garbage? 

Technically, yes, but not before you’ve gotten rid of the poop and put the dirty diaper in a secure bag. It’s against the World Health Organization’s guidelines to throw human waste in the trash and it could be a human health hazard. 

Disposing of dirty diapers: The bottom line

Who knew that there was a ‘proper’ way to dispose of diapers?

You’d be completely forgiven for not realizing that there’s a health risk associated with putting dirty diapers straight in the trash. But it’s super important to get rid of the poop before throwing your diapers away. It’s not the nicest job, but necessary all the same.

And before you even get to the ‘throwing away’ stage, take a look at plant-based and biodegradable diapers. They’re much better for the planet, which means they’re better for your baby too. 

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