This week I had a chance to speak with Adelle MacDonald, Owner and Co-founder of Botanic Baby, a cloth nappy service in offering an ecologically sustainable nappy delivery service in Melbourne Victoria. Now, i’d normally not speak to an owner of a nappy business on the show. However this one is different. This service is the only one providing a service like this in Melbourne, delivering clean cotton nappies/biodegradable nappies in the city.

Melbourne has a population of five million people. And only one nappy service using a circular economic model, with only 200 clients? I found that fact alone staggering. We need to do more. 

Sustainability Victoria report that up to four million disposable nappies are used each day in Australia and New Zealand, each nappy requiring approximately one cup of crude oil to make. 700kg of used disposable diapers go into the landfill per child annually and each nappy is estimated to take up to 500 years to break down. And even then, they only break down to microscopic plastic parts. Two billion, yes that’s right, two billion disposable nappies are being sent to landfill each and every year. Things have to change.

At a time when retailers around Australia are charging for single-use plastic bags as customers increasingly voice concerns about excessive plastic packaging, particularly on fruit and vegetables  wouldn’t it make sense for the public and supermarkets to target nappies too? Its a huge issue, and one that I think needs more attention in Australia.

Can you imagine a world where there is no longer single use disposable plastic nappies? I’d like to think we could get there.

MacDonald talks about her business, the hilarity of testing product and the challenges and wins of driving a business model that is light years away from the current take-make-dispose extractive industrial model of our past. There’s a world of opportunity to rethink and redesign the way we make our products. We talk about the need to transition to “decoupling” economic activity from the consumption of our finite resources, which is destroying our environment, and designing waste out of the system. Botanic Baby have partnered with Eenie Designs, who have a patented nappy system that’s a world first and unlike any other ordinary nappies. Together I hope they are on the path to greater sustainability in the nappy ecosystem in Australia. 

The Ellen MacCarthur Foundation work tirelessly to drive policy change and partnerships using a circular economic model: “Through a change in perspective we can re-design the way our economy works – designing products that can be ‘made to be made again’ and powering the system with renewable energy. We have the opportunity to create long-term resilience, generate new business and economic opportunities and provides environmental and societal benefits.”

As an engineer working with DevOps teams, MacDonald is a champion of the no waste model, generating a new kind of business that I hope will flourish in the future. 

What kind of work is out there for the future? There is a lot of work to do to transition to a new systemic shift in how we create and use products, and so I’m hoping we see more social and market leaders like MacDonald, who say enough is enough.

So many reasons I loved having MacDonald on the show, so many threads of this conversation that could be covered but we ran out of time. If you want to get in contact with her, you can do so directly through Botanic Baby’s website, or luckily enough, she gave listeners her mobile to get in touch if they are interested in learning more.

Thanks for listening, and enjoy the show.