The Pacific nation of Vanuatu has announced plans to ban disposable diapers in a move it says would significantly reduce pollution.
Vanuatuan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ralph Regenvanu announced the ban at a conference in Port Vila this week, saying that plastic cutlery, polystyrene cups, plastic drinks stirrers and types of food packaging would also be outlawed.
Research showed that disposable diapers were the largest single item of household waste in the capital, he said.
“Eliminating this item alone will disproportionately reduce plastic waste,” he tweeted.
Vanuatu is one of several Pacific nations severely affected by climate change and prides itself on showing environmental leadership.
Last year it became one of the first countries in the world to ban single-use plastic bags.
The diaper ban, which still needs final approval, is scheduled to begin on Dec. 1.
Disposable diapers pose an environmental nuisance as they are lined with non-biodegradable plastic and use the chemical sodium polyacrylate as an absorbent.
The human waste they contain also leaches harmful chemicals into the environment, rather than going through the sewage system to minimize its impact.
Critics say that the manufacturing process also contributes to global warming.
However, parents find them far more convenient than cloth diapers, which have to be washed and dried.
British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove was forced to rule out a diaper ban last year after making off-the-cuff remarks seen as paving the way for prohibiting their use.
Parents’ groups described the potential ban as a backward step for women, who were most likely to have to bear the labor-intensive burden of cleaning reusable diapers.
The environmental group Worldwatch Institute in 2007 estimated that 450 billion diapers were used globally every year. They are also big business.
A report by US market research firm Grand View Research last year said that the global baby diaper market was worth US$45.08 billion in 2016 and would grow to US$64.62 billion by 2022 amid rising demand from emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil.
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