A Brief History of the Disposable Diaper

Find out when Pampers was born, what year “elimination communication” became a fad, and how long it will really take disposable diapers to biodegrade.

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1948: Johnson & Johnson introduces first mass-marketed disposable diaper in the U.S.

1961: Procter & Gamble unveils Pampers.

1970: American babies go through 350,000 tons of disposable diapers, making up 0.3% of U.S. municipal waste.

1980: American babies wear 1.93 million tons of disposables, 1.4% of municipal waste.

1981: Disposables start using super-absorbent polymers; size reduced 50%.

1984: Cabbage Patch Kids appear on the first “designer diaper.”

1990: Disposable diapers now constitute 1.6% of municipal waste. 7 in 10 Americans say they would support their ban.

1990-91: Dueling studies by Procter & Gamble and the National Association of Diaper Services assert the merits of disposables and cloth, respectively.

1999: Pampers-funded pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton tells parents not to rush toilet training.

2000: Diapers compose 2% of municipal waste.

2005: The ultimate low-impact trend for people without shag carpets: “elimination communication,” i.e. teaching your infant to go diaper free.

2006: American babies wear 3.6 million tons of disposables, constituting 2.1% of municipal waste.

2007: Julia Roberts touts flushable diapers, with one caveat: “If you don’t really break it all the way up, it doesn’t go all the way down.”

2007: Pampers introduces diapers for kids weighing more than 41 lbs (typical for age 5).

2500: Early 21st-century disposable diapers will finish biodegrading.

Sources

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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