Cloth-diaper subsidy coming this fall for CDN-NDG residents

The Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce will soon be offering new parents a cloth-diaper subsidy, joining a growing list of places across Quebec that are encouraging young families to ditch disposable diapers.

Montreal borough to join dozens of Quebec municipalities encouraging families to ditch disposable diapers

Proponents of cloth diapers say they help the environment by keeping disposables out of landfills. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

The Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce will soon be offering new parents a cloth diaper subsidy —  joining a growing list of places across the province that are encouraging young families to ditch disposable diapers.

Coun. Lionel Perez said the idea came after a resident of his district in CDN–NDG made a request for a subsidy to help local parents adopt cloth diapers for their children.

"From a sustainable development perspective, it has clear advantages," said Perez of the subsidy, which the borough council unanimously approved last week.

"Disposable diapers are the number three item in landfills."

Reduced costs for the borough

Encouraging the use of cloth diapers, he said, is not only better for the environment, but it also saves money for both the borough and parents in the long run.

That's because the borough pays to dump its waste by weight, Perez said.

So with fewer disposable diapers being tossed in the garbage, what's being trucked to landfills weighs less.

Parents also save on costs, he said, because disposables cost substantially more than cloth diapers as children go through thousands of disposables before they are potty trained.

Disposable diapers are the number three item in landfills.- Coun . Lionel Perez

Those disposable diapers then sit in landfills for hundreds of years, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

Perez described the subsidy as "a win-win situation for everyone."

Costly, up-front investment

CDN–NDG isn't the only Montreal borough to offer subsidies for parents to use cloth diapers.

Saint-Laurent, Ville-Marie and Verdun are among several already offering parents $100 or more to help with that initial — and usually costly — first-time investment in cloth diaper supplies..

New starter kits cost around $175, but parents will often invest several hundred dollars initially to ensure they have enough reusable supplies, such as diaper covers and cloth inserts, to last until the next laundry cycle.

The initial investment in cloth diapers can be daunting for lower-income families, Perez said, but the hope is the subsidy will give them the ability to make the switch.

Anushka Panesar, a Montreal mother of two young children, swears by cloth diapers.

With a four-year-old and 21-month-old at home, she said there are lot of misunderstandings about cloth diapers out there as people don't realize how easy they are to use.

"I started cloth diapering from birth with my first [child]," said Panesar, describing lower, long-term costs as one of the main motivators.
"You can spend anywhere from a couple hundred to a thousand dollars, but you use them for the whole span of the child's diapering life."
Coun. Lionel Perez proposed the motion to subsidize cloth diapers after a resident from his district of Darlington contacted him. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Beyond saving money, she said using cloth diapers is also good for the environment.

"Every single disposable diaper that has been used on the face of this planet still exists somewhere in a landfill," she said.

Better for the environment

Some parents may be hesitant to switch over to cloth diapers because of perceived difficulties in using them.

The costly initial investment tends to be at the forefront of parents' concerns, however.

That's why Ilana Grostern, co-owner of the Montreal-based cloth diaper business, AppleCheeks, said she supports municipal subsidies.

Offering parents about $100 won't cover all the costs, she said, "but at least it raises awareness to the possibilities of cloth diaper use."

One cloth diaper replaces more than 250 disposable diapers over a course of about two-and-a-half years, Grostern said, and cloth diapers can be handed down to future kids.

That means their environmental footprint is lower than disposable diapers, she said.

Cloth diapers have never been more popular, she said, as "they tend to outperform disposable diapers quite dramatically."

Subsidy to launch this fall

With the council's motion approved, Perez said borough staff will now nail down the specifics as to how to best roll out the subsidy this fall.

The borough still hasn't decided how much money it will invest in the project overall, or how many parents it expects will take advantage of the program.

Cloth diapers may be expensive at first, but parents that use them say they save money in the long run because they are reusable. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

Staff will also be reaching out to local daycares, both public and private, to see if there is any interest in getting a subsidy of their own, Perez said.


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