Re: Cloth Versus Disposable

From: Roger Guttentag (
Date: Fri Sep 29 2000 - 00:03:43 EDT

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    Dear Bruce:

    I would be very interested in receiving a copy of your conclusions summary.
    I would also be interested in your assessment of the web citations provided
    in my 9/28/00 message to this list. There is a tremendous number of web
    sites that discuss the issue of disposable vs. reusable diapers but most do
    it from an overtly partisan orientation (either for or against) and without
    any analytical depth. My choice of sites was based principally on the
    critieria that they try to lay out a reasonably well structured discussion
    of the relevant issues in this debate and they provide references to the
    information sources they used. I did not, however, take the step which you
    took in verifying the accuracy of the conclusions made by these references;
    hence my interest in your analyses.


    Roger M. Guttentag

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Bruce Nordman <>
    To: <>
    Cc: <>; <>
    Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2000 4:51 PM
    Subject: re: Cloth Versus Disposable

    > >It would probably help Jon if anyone on the GRRN list knows how to locate
    > >hard copy of the two principal references on this topic (I can't find
    > >online):
    > >
    > >Arthur D. Little, consultants. Disposable Versus Reusable Diapers:
    > >Environmental and Economic Comparisons. Cambridge, MA: Arthur D. Little,
    > >1990.
    > >
    > >Lehrburger, Carl. Diapers in the Waste Stream: A Review of Waste
    > >and Public Policy Issues. 1989
    > I have those two references and lots more. However, I don't think
    > that they are that useful, even though widely cited.
    > A number of years ago I carefully reviewed the assumptions and
    > in these and other reports with respect to energy and found serious
    > methodological and factual errors. As energy use dominates the
    > overall LCA results, these problems render the conclusions of both
    > reports of limited use.
    > I could mail a summary of my conclusions to anyone really interested
    > (it is just 2 pages). Unfortunately, I don't have it on the web
    > since it was done back in 1992 (I think).
    > I haven't checked any of the web references that Roger provided
    > so can't comment on those.
    > Besides exposing flaws with many _applications_ of LCA, my basic
    > finding was that if you wanted to minimize energy use you would
    > home wash cloth diapers efficiently, and if you wanted to maximize
    > energy use you would home wash inefficently. For both home washing
    > and diaper services, the real world range in how it is done in
    > different places far exceeds what difference there might be between
    > the averages of home-wash, service-wash, or disposables.
    > So, comparing the averages alone is of little use.
    > --Bruce
    > Bruce Nordman
    > Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    > 510-486-7089; fax: 510-486-4673

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