To parents with young children, nappies are an everyday necessity, but what cost do disposable nappies have on the environment?
Words Emily Bell
Single-use disposable nappies are said to take hundreds of years to decompose and in order to preserve the environment, reducing waste to landfill is more crucial than ever. Tahlia and Semisi Hutchison from Kiwi brand Little & Brave noticed this problem and as a result has developed a circular, sustainable business that produces both eco-friendly nappies and a disposal service.
The number of nappies to landfill is staggering. What inspired you to establish your brand?
It’s definitely a concern. This is what motivated Tahlia and myself to do something about the problem, when we had our first child. We had been focusing on becoming more sustainable, however, our rubbish bin for landfill was still full at the end of every week – 90% of which was disposable nappies.
We established Little & Brave to specifically target two goals in New Zealand society. Firstly, to reduce the nappy-to-landfill waste stream and secondly, to show mainstream New Zealand that sustainability can work for busy parents, in the real world and for a competitive price. Positive change comes from living nearly the same life we have become accustomed to, but with products and services that allow everyone to live a more sustainable life.
What are Little & Brave’s nappies made of?
The main component is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified sustainably-sourced wood fluff pulp, which is chlorine and perfume-free. There is also a waterproof and breathable plant-based bio-film, a small amount of super absorber and non-GMO corn-starch based PLA inner lining and leak guards.
The Little & Brave system is a two-part system. A fully commercially compostable nappy paired with a washable and reusable Snap Wrap or Snap Pant.
To eliminate the problem of disposing the nappies in landfill, you’ve also created a service. Can you talk me through how the process works?
Our Drop & Collect Service is available to parents as well as our commercial customers. For a weekly subscription fee, Little & Brave will drop off fresh nappies and collect the used nappies. We take the nappies back to our commercial composting facility in Penrose, remove any contamination, add additional organic material and turn it into beautiful, nutrient-dense compost. We solve the problem of sending nappies to landfill by making it easier to compost them than it would be to do anything else. All you need to do is leave the nappies outside your house for us to collect!
What’s the difference between home composting and using your service?
Home composting and commercial composting differ primarily on one point – temperature. Home compost sites rarely exceed 30-degrees Celsius. This is not hot enough to remove the pathogens that are present in soiled nappies. Little & Brave’s composting facility ‘Eco Circle’ strictly adheres to the New Zealand Standard (NZS-4454:2005), and the NZ standard requires organic material to reach a minimum of 55-degrees Celsius for a minimum of 72-hours consecutively.
Reaching, monitoring and maintaining this temperature reliably is the key difference between home and commercial composting. There are other differences of course, but ensuring reliable temperature is the key defining feature.
What’s the reaction been so far, from the industry and from parents?
From parents, overwhelming support. Mainstream New Zealand want products and services that offer a sustainable future and cleaner country for their children.
The commercial composting industry welcomes our operation, as it creates genuine interest in a sector people have overlooked for too long. We look forward to working with our wider commercial composting and waste collection community to create an infrastructure that will allow a more sustainable, circular economic model.
The nappy industry also welcomes Little & Brave, as competition is healthy in a stagnant market. Again, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss and work with our wider nappy community to further the goals of adopting sustainable practice.
Is the product available nationwide?
Yes, our nappies are available nationwide through our website.
What are your hopes for the future of the brand and initiative?
Our projections for the brand are promising. We enter New Zealand supermarkets in August, launch new products from August onward, expand into offshore markets late 2019, and move into a similar market segment early in 2020.
Our goal is to make landfills a thing of the past. The initiative of creating a circular economy, using commercially compostable nappies as the base, is only the starting point.
Significantly reducing landfills will kick-start innovation across a range of industries from product and packaging design, to resource and waste management, to home, community and commercial composting. With strategic legislation, infrastructure investment, and incentives for innovators, we can build the public-private partnerships needed to create a circular economy for our country.
Little & Brave’s journey has taught us that individual and private innovation must be supported by policy, practice, and commitment long-term. By saying ‘No’ to landfills, we are actually saying ‘Yes’ to circular economic innovation, that can truly transform the environmental, social and financial health of New Zealand.
To learn more, click here to visit Little & Brave’s website.