This is an older piece but still offers some interesting things to consider when comparing cloth diapers to disposable diapers. The piece was published on May 8, 2016 byand is on the Washington Post website.
The piece looks beyond the surface and delves into the production of both types of diapers particularly looking at the process of growing, harvesting and transporting cotton before it reaches the point where it is turned into cloth diapers. It also looks at what disposable diaper companies are doing to improve the greenness of their product. both have issues, but just in water consumption to produce 30 cloth diapers compared to I think it was 4000 disposable diapers the disposable diapers required came in at a little under half as much water as the cloth diapers before factoring in the washing of cloth diapers after they have been bought and used. They also looked at chemicals used in the growing of the cotton and the impact it has on the environment and compared it to the impact of petroleum use/production for disposable diapers.
My Mom used cloth diapers on all 3 of us, so I am in no way anti-cloth diapers, but as someone who founded a Diaper ministry, I look at things beyond just giving the diaper to the person in need. I try to also look at things people from both sides of the cloth vs. disposable debate are saying so I can better understand the product I’m distributing. I watch for recalls on items I distribute, as well as weighing out cloth vs. disposable asking questions like “can my recipient wash the cloth diapers in their home?” if not “is there a laundromat in the area they can get to that will allow them to wash them?” if there is “how will they transport the dirty diapers to the Laundromat?” these are just some of the many questions I ponder and research as I make decisions about what I do or don’t distribute to my recipients through my diaper ministry.
If I had kids, I would way out the logistics of maintaining cloth diapers and if I had a convenient way to wash and dry them, I would likely use them when possible, but if my situation made it impossible to have a convenient and efficient method to wash and dry cloth diapers I would likely resort to disposable some or all the time, so for me it would boil down to what would be the most efficient based on my life and what I have access to for maintaining or disposing of diapers.