Saturday, 21 May 2011

What's In a Nappy?

I was very happy to be among a group of Mummy Bloggers invited along to visit the Pampers Plant in Manchester.  I have always favoured Pampers above other brands of nappy for convenience, quality, reliability and comfort.

The plant situated in Trafford park has recently celebrated its 75th birthday.  Over the years it has produced a vast array of Proctor and Gamble products, but for the last three years has been the sole manufacturing plant in the UK for Pampers.  The employees are proud to work for this company. 30% of workers have achieved over 20 years service.  The management system is based on respect and it values everyone for playing their part.

We were given a presentation by Chris the Plant Manager giving us a brief history of the plant.  It was amazing to see how things have changed over the years.  We learned how the plant has strong links to the community, involving itself in action for children, enterprise and in donating products and services.

What's in a Nappy?

We had the opportunity to study the structure of a Pampers nappy.  They have a dual layer, with a cellulose top sheet over a core containing absorbent gel.  This locks in moisture away from the skin.  The back sheet is breathable without allowing liquid to escape.  Pampers Active Fit uses much less pulp than previous nappies making it much thinner, and resulting in less waste.

Me and Financial expert Nicola Cairncross find out what's in  a nappy!
We were shown a demonstration of the effectiveness of the gel.  300ml of liquid was poured onto the gel and it was fully absorbed very quickly.  This means that the nappies have less sagging and are dry to touch very quickly.  This makes baby comfortable and prevents nappy rash.

We were given a guided tour of the plant where we saw how nappies are made.  The process was incredibly efficient and the machines were impressive.  Long strips of raw materials whizzed by until being cut and sealed into individual nappies.  The finished product was then packaged into packs and boxes and continued their journey across a maze of conveyor belts to be packed onto pallets by robots and ferried by automated carts to storage.  The warehouse which stored the nappies was absolutely huge with thousands of units ready for shipping to the shops in the UK and for European export.  It was incredible and the speed of the process from raw material to the finished product was impressively quick!  

Along the route of the nappy, various Quality Control tests take place.  We saw the test to check the strength of the ears of the nappy (the bit which does up around baby's waste) to see how easily they rip away.  We also saw an absorbency test for the nappy core.

We also had the opportunity of meeting the experts from the Pampers Village Parenting Panel.  This is a group of professionals selected from all areas of pregnancy, child development and family wellbeing.  They are there to provide the latest information and advice to help parents through this crucial stage of their life.

The experts were all specialists in their field and happily answered all of our personal questions.  They were all very open, friendly and approachable.  I learned a lot about child development and managing finances from the Q & A over lunch.

The PVPP can provide up to the minute advice on fertility, pregnancy, baby development, skin, money, relationships, fitness, nutrition and sleep.  So whatever stage you are at, Pampers Village can help.  Check out the website for tips, news, forums and information.

There is growing concern about the use of disposable nappies and their impact on the environment, so I questioned Pampers resident scientist regarding this.  P & G have worked closely with environmentalist Julia Hailes who says:

"I've been working as an environmentalist for over 20 years – writing books, making speeches and advising companies, including P&G, on what they should be doing. One of the most difficult eco-decisions I’ve had to make is whether to use cloth or disposable nappies. I chose disposables. Given that I'm a big campaigner on reducing waste this might seem surprising. But my view was that the environmental differences between the two products were not so great – and disposables performed better."

Here is a link to a paper summarising her research. 

It makes interesting reading and offers a different perspective in the cloth vs disposable nappy debate.

I personally choose to use disposable nappies but because I manage my waste effectively, I never exceed the capacity of my grey bin that is collected two-weekly and that is with  a family of five living at home.  My contribution to landfill is not excessive and I try to offset the amount of rubbish we generate as a family by recycling, re-using and reducing in other areas.  I only do two or three loads of laundry in a normal week and I never tumble dry.

I'd be interested in other people's viewpoints!


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