Real Nappies for London – Looking to the Future

Real Nappies for London will be 10 years old in July 2017

Designed to be a pan-London project, membership so far has been taken up by a small number of boroughs, giving us the opportunity to learn by delivering.  What we are doing is behaviour change and as we have learnt from public health, behaviour change is not quick and easy – it’s slow and difficult.  Investment should be made carefully and cautiously, testing messages, monitoring costs and impacts.  We need to ensure that the scheme is not only good value for money but also effective with no detrimental side-effects.


Moving in the right direction

The growing consensus that we need to transition from the linear consumption model to a circular economy is welcome to Real Nappies for London.  Metropolitan nappy laundry services reduce disposable nappy waste – this can be significant when the business serves both nurseries and households. Real Nappies for London has advertised the existence of these businesses and encouraged residents to take up their services.  Real nappies have been endorsed by Midwives, health professionals and nurseries.  This is essential when expectant and new parents are bombarded with marketing messages about single-use nappies including being given free samples by hospital midwives.


Doing it for themselves

Of course parents who choose to wash nappies make big savings on their household spending.  We also get feedback that parents find washing nappies less messy than they expected.  Most people use nappy liners that catch the poo meaning that the nappies are mostly merely damp while waiting to be washed.  A mesh bag in a bucket and no soaking makes loading nappies into the washing machine, quick, clean and easy.  An increasing number of parents also find reusable wipes practical and save them money!


Potty Training Advice

When Real Nappies for London started the general consensus on potty training was let your child potty train when they are ready.  We have consistently kept in contact and developed relationships with paediatric continence experts and brought this expertise to the attention of those who are perpetuating the ‘myth’ that children potty train themselves.  The advice now given by Foundation Years, supported by DoE is that babies can tell carers they need the potty/a nappy change from 16 months.  We have also supported parents who are looking for information about baby-led potty training, a practise that has been endorsed by June Rogers, the most experienced and qualified paediatric continence adviser in the UK.  Toddlers gaining toileting independence makes life easier for parents, saves them money and reduces nappy waste.



We collaborated with Lambeth on a zero waste project out of which came a short film about a London mother getting to grips with reusable nappies.  An edited version of the film has been shown as a 30 second advert in Homerton Hospital’s antenatal waiting rooms.

A peer reviewed research paper by The University of Northampton (TUoN) has been published in an international journal showing that the scheme is cost effective.  A second paper will appear within a year that will also look at the socio-psychological impacts of the scheme.

Future Plans

Whilst we would like research that will show the actual impact of the real nappy incentives (anecdotal evidence suggest the impact is higher than measured via the uptake and redemption of vouchers) including a  comparison with baseline data collected by GfK on behalf of WEN 2004-5, we currently have no budget for this.  However, what we know is that behaviour change is incremental.  The more people you meet who use real nappies the more likely you are to use them. The RNfL voucher schemes means more parents in London are using them, passing them on and spreading good ‘word-of-mouth.’  Friends and family suggest a nappy voucher to an expectant or new parent.  It’s a gentle nudge and it’s happening in London.  We’d like to help more boroughs reduce nappy waste.

Charity Number: 1118616 | Company Number: 4323551