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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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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