It was exciting to see cloth diapers on the popular TV show, Shark Tank, on Friday night (9/28). What a great opportunity to show the audience that reusable cloth diapers are on the upswing given increasing awareness about the environment and a tough economy!
Unfortunately, the cloth diapers themselves were hardly addressed in the Shark Tank, with attention devoted instead to patent issues and manufacturing problems. A lost opportunity, perhaps, but useful in that the issue of the influx of cheap cloth diapers from overseas into the market is one that needs to be discussed.
Most families demonstrate willingness to pay extra to match certain values. (For example, many families are willing to pay more for disposable diapers to receive the perceived benefit of convenience). However, there is always a line to be drawn.
So what ARE the issues that might be considered when deciding whether or not to choose the cheapie cloth diapers?
- Do lower quality materials and construction result in hidden costs of repair or replacement, or even unacceptable performance (leaking diapers or hazardous materials used)?
- If customers give up support from the manufacturer or retailer, are they in danger of using or caring for the product incorrectly? Do the costs of customer support get passed to local small businesses?
- How does a choice to buy a cheap product from overseas affect the stability of local businesses?
- As discussed on Shark Tank, is intellectual property being infringed upon?
I often explain that my goal is not to “convince” someone to use cloth diapers. It is, instead, to give families the information they need about the benefits and use of cloth diapers to make an informed decision. In the same way, I merely suggest consideration of these issues so you can be an informed cloth diaper consumer.
Lastly, cloth diapering both inexpensively and ethically is possible. And helping low-income families get into cloth diapers is something that the Real Diaper Association supports and helps to facilitate (as discussed most recently here and here).
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association