A government report that found old-fashioned reusable diapers damage the environment more than disposables has been hushed up because ministers are embarrassed by its findings.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has instructed civil servants not to publicise the conclusions of the £50,000 diaper research project and to adopt a “defensive” stance towards its conclusions.
The report found that using washable diapers, hailed by councils throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them.
To reduce the impact of cloth diapers on climate change parents would have to hang wet diapers out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children, and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 60C.
The conclusions will upset proponents of real diapers who have claimed they can help save the planet.
Restricted Whitehall documents, seen by The Sunday Times, show that the government is so concerned by the “negative laundry options” outlined in the report, it has told its media managers not to give its conclusions any publicity.
The report found that while disposable diapers used over 2½ years would have a global warming impact of 550kg of CO2, reusable diapers produced 570kg of CO2 on average. But if parents used tumble dryers and washed the reusable diapers at 90C, the impact could spiral to 993kg of CO2. A Defra spokesman said the government was shelving plans for future research on diapers.