Diapers - The Next Industry Primed For Disruption
Had an interesting question come in via the Pebble inbox this week:
What industry is environmentally damaging and ripe for serious disruption and, eventually, improvement?
One answer that seems obvious in retrospect is diapers.
As any parent quickly comes to appreciate disposable diapers are both a miracle and a serious environmental problem. And though they are a very basic consumer item, they are also a tricky problem to solve in a universal and affordable way.
The basic breakdown:
Most newborns go through 5500 diapers before they are potty trained after, on average, 2.5 tough years.
If you magnify that by the 140m babies scheduled to be born this year you get 770bn diapers.
This is a lot. Some countries estimate that diapers are as much as 3-4% of waste.
The challenge is that, for years, the only other option - reusable cloth diapers - were not necessarily any better when it comes to the carbon emissions. The energy it takes to clean and dry them actually often added up to more than a simple disposable version. This effectively lets people off the hook and using disposables is less work anyway.
Now, that can change - crucially on multiple fronts. Advances in materials and also more efficient washing machines (and renewable energy!) mean that both disposable and reusable variants may improve dramatically in the years ahead. Bamboo inserts and hemp reusables may improve both things considerably. Diapers are getting "smarter" but they are also getting greener.
The other angle? With Western societies ageing rapidly the diaper market, green or otherwise, is growing exponentially at the other end of human lifespan. So, who will be the Beyond Meat for diapers? And who will be Lululemon or Patagonia for the adult market?!
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