Title: Evolution of disposable baby diapers in Europe: life cycle assessment of environmental impacts and identification of key areas of improvement
Citation: JOURNAL OF CLEANER PRODUCTION vol. 95 p. 322-331
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC89866
ISSN: 0959-6526
URI: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652615001535
DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.02.040
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: An assessment of the environmental aspects related to the life cycle of disposable baby diapers in Europe is presented in this paper with the aim of analysing recent improvements and identifying key environmental areas on which to focus in order to further decrease impacts. Average products available on the European market in recent years have been modelled and evaluated from “cradle to grave”. Results point out the importance of materials in the definition of the environmental profile of the product. These are followed by the end of life for some impact categories, while the contribution of manufacturing, packaging and transport to the overall LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) results seems of minor relevance. Significant environmental improvements at European level have been achieved in recent years through the design of lighter products and the introduction of superabsorbent polymers. Careful selection and use of materials at the design stage could allow life cycle impacts of products to be further decreased, while ensuring that human health and environmental risks are controlled and that functionality and performance requirements are fulfilled. Indeed, potential malfunctioning of products would result in increasing consumption. Resource efficiency is also important at the manufacturing level to optimise the demand for materials and limit waste production. Special forms of treatment at the end of life stage of the product could instead require significant structural changes of the waste management system. The outcomes of this paper could be applied to support the design and environmental labelling of disposable baby diapers for promoting the production and consumption of product options characterised by lower environmental impacts.
JRC Directorate:Growth and Innovation

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