Attempting a World Record at 2am: The Great Cloth Diaper Change in Australia

Picture this: it’s 2am on a late April morning. In Australia we’re heading into our cold months, so at 2am there is more than a little chill in the air. But at Wonthaggi Town Hall in Victoria, Australia, the lights are on and (hopefully) so are the heaters, because there are a lot of little baby bottoms exposed to the night air.

So why are these crazy people up changing diapers at 2am? To help set a world record of course.  To help celebrate Earth Day, over 400 communities worldwide will be participating in this attempt to set a world record for the number of cloth diapers (or cloth nappies, in Wonthaggi) to be changed at one time. The event is scheduled for 9am on April 23 Pacific Standard Time in America, which is a chilly 2am on the 24th, at Wonthaggi in Eastern Australia.

The aim is to show that cloth diapers are a real option for today’s families wherever they live in the world; to bring cloth diapering back into the main stream. The Great Cloth Diaper Change has only one location scheduled to participate in Australia (perhaps the 2am time goes some way towards explaining that), but this small Aussie group are passionate about their cause. Here are some figures to help explain their passion:
Logo with basic map of the world and the words The Great Cloth Diaper Change 2011

  • In Australian and New Zealand alone, 1.375 Billion disposable nappies are used annually
  • That means 3.75 Million disposable nappies dumped every single day in these 2 nations.
  • Three Million trees are felled every year to make disposable nappies for Australia and New Zealand
  • Babies in disposable diapers go through about 6000 nappies in two and a half years.
  • It’s estimated that disposable diapers take 250-500 years to break down.

Disposable diaper manufacturers may claim that their products have a similar environmental impact to cloth diapers, but they base these claims on flawed studies, which compared the highest impact practices of cloth diapering (for instance using cotton diapers, hot water, bleach and clothes dryers) against the lowest impact disposable diapering (for instance, using only four diapers in a 24 hour period). In fact, the latest study to come out the UK, ‘An Updated Lifecycle Assessment Study for Disposable and Reusable Nappies’ which was published by Environment Agency, in 2008 (available at, found that using reusable nappies can save 40% in carbon emissions.

And that doesn’t even to begin to consider issues like the public health implications of billions of disposable diapers and their contents going to landfill each year, where 100 intestinal viruses leach from the untreated human waste, contaminating ground water and presenting risks to sanitation workers at the very least.

To be counted towards the world record attempt, the Wonthaggi group must have at least 25 cloth nappies changed (on 25 different children by 25 different adults), so to encourage enthusiasts to come out in the wee hours of the morning, organisers are offering lucky door prizes and take home memento bags with a free cloth nappy, amoung other goodies. They are also giving away cloth nappies to anyone who currently uses disposables but would like to take part in the event and try out a modern cloth nappy – at two in the morning!

The event at Wonthaggi is being hosted by Vee McInnes of in conjunction with OzNappies. Free tickets are available via the event’s Facebook page.

If you would like to get involved in your local community, check out The Great Cloth Diaper Change website to find out if there is already an event organised. Or keep an eye out for next year’s challenge and organise an event yourself for your local community.