By Rachael Mason, THELAW.TV
If you’ve spent any time at all with babies or young children, then you know that diapers must be dealt with, no matter the location. A newborn baby needs between 10 and 12 diaper changes a day, according to WebMD. Between birth and toilet training, a baby can use as many as 8,000 diapers, says babycenter.com.
In a baby’s future, it’s guaranteed there will be a lot of diaper changes. But what exactly is the protocol for disposing of dirty diapers? “If you’re in a mall, restaurant, or other indoor spot, also be sure to tote dirty baby diapers and wipes out with you in a plastic bag to dispose of at home. It’s a lot more courteous than tossing a stinky diaper in a public trash can,” says WebMD in a story called “Diapering Baby on the Go.”
However, throwing away dirty diapers in public is not just a matter of courtesy. It’s also a health concern, as the urine and feces contained in diapers can contribute to the spread of infectious diseases, according to the American Public Health Association, which released a statement regarding disposable diapers in 1989. In part, the statement said that “more than 100 different enteric viruses, including polio and hepatitis are known to be excreted in human feces and that these viruses can live for months after the stool has passed from the body.” It also stated that diapers, “pose potential health risks to sanitation workers.”
In Portland, Ore., workers who collect residents’ recycling are now dealing with more diapers than ever—up to 120 pounds of dirty diapers a day are found in recycling bins—due to a 2011 change in the trash pickup schedule, according to NPR. The city’s trash is now picked up every other week, while recycling and compost are still collected weekly. People are adding diapers to their recycling bins in an effort to get their unpleasant trash to be removed more often.
This practice is not only unsavory, however, it’s illegal. Portland’s city code mandates that diapers be bagged and disposed of in solid waste containers, and not the bins provided for recyclables and compost. Fines for first-time waste infractions can range from $200 to $600, while penalties for multiple infractions can range from $600 to $1500.
Disposing of diapers in public trash cans is against the law in some places. For example, Seattle Municipal Code contains the following provision: “The following shall not be deposited or discarded into any commercial or residential garbage can, container or receptacle: Dead animals over fifteen (15) pounds; sewage; human or animal excrement (including excrement from disposable diapers) …” Seattle also has a law banning a person from discarding potentially dangerous litter, including “Raw human waste, including soiled baby diapers, regardless of whether the waste is in a container of any sort.”
However, according to Public Health of Seattle and King County, “Disposable diapers, adult incontinence products, and other materials contaminated with feces may be thrown out in the regular garbage if they are placed in a sealed plastic bag.” Also, when dealing with disposable diapers, you can place fecal matter into the toilet before putting the diaper into the trash, the Seattle department says.
Using a device such as a Diaper Genie is good option for smell and to avoid legal fines. This seals diapers individually into plastic film, and allows parents to be in compliance with regulations that require diapers to be sealed in plastic before they are discarded. Also, don’t forget, always keep plastic bags handy to help manage diaper changes when you aren’t at home.