The Nappy Lady

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Nappy Lady is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Managing Director
Wendy Richards
A bundle of reusable
Making a difference and meeting a need – this is the
slogan for The Nappy Lady, whose goal is to promote
the economic, environmental and health benefits of
reusable nappies. When the company was founded, it was the
UK’s first online reusable nappy retailer. In addition to selling all
the parts of a nappy system, the company advises parents on
how to use reusable nappies and what is needed in the process.
Managing Director Wendy Richards has been a passionate
convert to reusable nappies since she was pregnant with her
first child in 2004, and is keen to say more about the product.
Let’s start with some frankly staggering statistics. The UK throws away three billion
single-use nappies every year. Ninety per cent of these single-use nappies end up
being incinerated or going to landfill. In landfill, it is estimated to take 500 years for
a single-use nappy to break down. And when they do break down, methane gas is
released, which leads to increased global warming. The average baby goes through
5,500 nappies from birth to potty. Even using just one reusable nappy per day will
save 730 nappies going to landfill.
Setting the background
I want to address head-on some of the myths and knee-jerk reactions that we
often get, particularly from people who maybe remember raising children in the
1970s and who, reading this, are now having a flashback to the days of terry
nappies and safety pins. The reusables available today are totally different to
what older people will remember; no one needs to use a safety pin, and there is
»Managing Director:
»Founded in 1999
»Located in Ash Vale
»Services: Promoter of reusable
»No. of employees: 13
»The Nappy Lady was the first
online UK reusable nappy
The Nappy Lady
Highlighting best practice
an extensive array of styles, designs,
fabrics and fasteners available that can
accommodate children of all shapes
and sizes.
And this isn’t some expensive eco-
friendly fad only practicable for
middle-class “yummy mummies” with
time on their hands. Our customers
come from all demographics. The
simple fact is that reusables work
out cheaper over the birth-to-potty
cycle than disposables, even when
laundry costs are factored in. They
need be no more of a fuss to use (and
reuse) than disposables. Ultimately,
this is just about giving new parents
Changes in the sector and in
Reusables are a growing industry.
I think this is mainly because of
increasing consumer awareness
of the environmental impact of
disposables. The BBC’s
Blue Planet
programme highlighted the appalling
environmental effects on the oceans
of plastics pollution generally, and
of disposable nappies in particular.
Parents are now aware and realise that
disposable nappies are in fact single-
use products, just like coffee cups
or disposable wipes. The truth that
nappies don’t biodegrade in landfill
– whatever their packaging claims –
has now been exposed in the media
as well, further driving parents to
reconsider the nappies they choose.
I can see, based on the traffic to our
website and the uptick in phone
calls we received, that from January
to December 2018, we advised over
10,000 families on what products are
best for their individual needs via our
online questionnaire, and we’re on
track to advise over 15,000 families
in 2019. When I bought the company
back in 2010, annual turnover was
around £170,000. In 2018, it had shot
up to £1.3 million.
We have expanded from a team of just
me and a couple of part-time helpers
to a team of 13. All my staff are
parents with young families, so I offer
flexible working in order that everyone
can work around the needs of their
children. As a working mother of
three children myself, I’m realistic and
understand the demands placed on
mothers. I appreciate the flexibility my
job gives me and want other parents
to have the same.
A stubborn status quo
There are some challenges ahead.
As disposables have started to lose
market share, both the manufacturers
and the supermarkets who distribute
disposables have started to fight
back. The cost of disposable nappies
is now very cheap, which makes the
cost saving of cloth not as clear cut
or enticing. The real cost of single-
use nappies to the environment isn’t
factored into the retail price. Local
councils are bearing the cost of the
waste, rather than the polluter or
manufacturer paying for it. I’d like to
see central support from government
to help reduce the reliance on
disposable nappies along with other
single-use plastics.
Saving the environment
Our customers
come from all
Promote the economic,
environmental and health
benefits of reusable
nappies; give greater
consumer choice to new
parents; advise parents
on how to use reusable
nappies and what they
need; and sell all parts of
a nappy system.
I’d also like to see the government
encourage cloth use by extending
nappy voucher incentive schemes,
as seen in London. The Real Nappies
for London scheme offers vouchers
of up to £54.15 to new parents to
use against reusable nappies of their
choice for each baby they have. The
scheme has been very successful in
promoting cloth usage. However, only
a few London boroughs are part of
the scheme, so it’s a real postcode
lottery. The same can be seen across
the country, with a handful of other
councils also offering different
schemes. It would be great if such
schemes could be extended and made
available more consistently.
I’d like to see the benefits of cloth
nappies discussed in every antenatal
class and promoted in hospitals.
Every parent is given a bounty
pack in hospital that includes their
child benefit form, and this pack
is sponsored by single-use-nappy
companies. We’ve come across
cases where midwives have not
wanted to promote cloth due to the
risk of compromising the bounty-
At the time parents have a new
baby, they become increasingly
concerned about the environment
and their baby. It is the perfect time
to engage parents on environmental
alternatives, especially ones that
can save money and offer better
performance than polluting, single-
use products. It’s remarkable that
the NHS is, accidentally or by design,
promoting the use of disposables in
this way. Moreover, reducing reliance
on disposable nappies supports the
government’s objective of eliminating
all avoidable waste by 2050 and all
avoidable plastic by the end of 2042.
It would be great to see some real
thought leadership and “joined-up
government” here.
In the future, I want to diversify the
business into other areas with similar
economic and ethical challenges. We
are already expanding our range into
reusable sanitary products. We find
that when our customers start using
reusable nappies, the mums start to
think about the impact of their single-
use sanitary products. As a company,
we want to be at the fore of all these
All my staff
are parents
with young
Year-on-year growth
From January to
December 2018, we
advised over 10,000
families on what products
are best for their individual
needs via our online
questionnaire. We’re
on track to advise over
15,000 families in 2019.
Jan to Dec 2018: 21,000 individual
orders were processed. When
I bought the company back in
2010, annual turnover was around
Our turnover for previous years is:
»Jan – Dec 2016: £653,600
»Jan – Dec 2017: £722,500
»Jan – Dec 2018: £1,300,000

This article was sponsored by The Nappy Lady. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.