Recently, I was changing my daughter's diaper at my friend’s house, and she asked me, "Can you dump the poop in the toilet before putting the diaper in the pail?"
Sure, I said, and my friend explained that she was asking because she’d heard it was against federal regulations to put human waste in landfills -- but for some reason, nobody enforced this when it came to the poop found in diapers.
Oh good golly. Bad enough I'm using disposables in the first place -- am I doing even more damage by not taking this extra, easy-enough step?
Googling didn't tell me much; cloth-diaper and compostable-diaper sites made vague reference to this, but there was no official word. So, I called the authorities. Here’s what the EPA and the California Department of Resources had to say about human poop in landfills.
The EPA said, "Disposable diapers fall under the category of municipal solid waste, which means the material is safe to be disposed of in a U.S. municipal solid waste landfill." What’s more: "Modern landfills are well-engineered facilities that are located, designed, operated, and monitored to ensure compliance with federal regulations, which aim to protect the environment from contaminants, which may be present in the solid waste stream."
Alrighty then. But I live in California, which sometimes has more stringent standards than the rest of the country. For example, my town has excellent recycling. We even have compost pick-up! So, I called the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to get a more local response.
Their spokesperson, Amy Norris, told me that, indeed, a landfill is a place for non-hazardous waste -- but "the contents of a diaper are considered solid waste, not hazardous or medical waste." Plus, since diaper bags are mixed in with a lot of other trash when it’s part of residential pickup, there’s "not a concentration of a huge amount of human waste at any time." (Amy Norris has clearly not seen my Diaper Genie.)
On the other hand, "It’ll make your diaper pail stink less if you do dump that in the toilet and flush it,” she pointed out. Six years after her youngest was potty-trained, Norris still has vivid memories of that particular aroma.
Good point. But chances are, I won’t be adding this extra step to my diaper-changing routine. If I were looking to lessen the amount of guilt I feel over using disposable diapers (and I do feel awfully guilty about it), I would go the extra mile. But if it’s just a question of protecting my nose, meh. I’m made of tougher stuff than baby poop.
Well, except when they don’t get enough water, but that’s another story.
Had you heard this poop-dumping rumor? Do you dump your baby’s poop before ditching the dipe?
Image via misocrazy/Flickr