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.


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

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.