WTRRP is awarded grant for nappies and wipes from the Watford Mayor’s Small Grant Fund

Back in August 2019 we applied to the Watford Mayor’s Small Grant Fund for a grant to purchase nappies and wipes.  These are provided as part of our food bank but unlike the food , nappies and wipes are provided solely by WTRRP and are not part of the generous donations from Watford Food Bank.   About 20 families  receive one packet of  disposable  nappies and wipes per month.  

We applied for £ 2,280 which would enable us to give out  2 packets of nappies and wipes a month  to 20 families  for 2 years.   We were lucky enough to get the grant but only on the condition that the money  was spent on reusable nappies and wipes.

Once we had looked into Watford Borough’s role in relation to waste management it was no surprise that they would not grant us money for disposable nappies and wipes .

“If  Henry VIII had used disposable nappies, they would still be festering away somewhere, not yet decomposed.”

The vast majority of nappies are not recyclable and must be thrown away with general waste. This means they will probably end up in landfill or be burnt.  An estimated three billion nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, accounting for 2-3% of all household waste, according to the recycling charity Wrap.  This is a serious problem as landfills are a major contributor to global warming, continually releasing methane gas for decades.

Watford Borough is, together with Hertfordshire County Council and all Hertfordshire Borough and District Councils, part of WasteAware which aims to reduce, reuse and recycle waste in Hertfordshire.  WasteAware aims to promote the use of reusable nappies by offering a free starter kit worth over £100 to help get families get started.  WTRRP is proposing to provide suitable clients with full kits to cover all their needs.  We can then claim back £50 towards the cost from WasteAware

It is fairly expensive to start using reusable nappies and wipes and we reckon we will only be able to help about 10 families.  However, once the initial nappies  and other equipment have been purchased the families will not have to spend any more money on nappies which can also be used for any additional children.

The downside is that used nappies have to be stored, washed and dried – like in the old days, although these modern nappies are  much quicker to dry.  Therefore we will check that clients have suitable washing and drying facilities before offering them reusable nappies.

Because some clients would not have these facilities  we had to decide whether to refuse the grant, or to ask Watford Borough to agree that we could spend at least part of the grant on environmentally friendly nappies,  or to accept the grant and assume we would be able to spend the money as required.

Fortunately we were able to get a lot of information from Helena Jackson, Hertfordshire’s Waste Aware Coordinator – also known as the ‘Nappy Guru’. She informed us that so called ‘environmentally  friendly’ nappies do not degrade quickly in landfill, in spite of all the claims on the adverts so Watford would not provide funding for those.

However, Helena Jackson alerted us to the hybrid model  : hybrid nappies use a waterproof outer shell with a choice of absorbent inserts.   The inserts can be reusable or disposable. The shell can be used multiple times before washing.  So there is less washing and  families have the flexibility and convenience of using  either reusable or disposable inserts.  And for some it might become a gradual move towards reusable nappies only, with the associated  financial and environmental benefit

So far we have a few families interested in switching. The grant has to be spent by September 2021 so there is time for families to consider the switch.   And we will continue to offer disposable nappies to those families who do not want to change

I would like to thank Watford Mayors’s Small Grant Fund for their support, with a particular thank you to Kim Bloomfield, Partnership and Funding Manager,  for her patience in answering all my queries and her interest in the work of WTRRP, and Helena Jackson, WasteAware Coordinator, for her enthusiasm and knowledge about all matters relating to nappies.

Grethe Hansen

December 2019