Rear Gear 'green' disposable diaper comes from Hicksville firm

(L-R) Keith Garber and Kevin Schwartz, founders of (L-R) Keith Garber and Kevin Schwartz, founders of BabyGanics pose with their new product, an environmentally friendly diaper that they claim is both disposable and gentle to the environment. (April 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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A Hicksville maker of natural household and babycare items is hoping a new product for a baby's rear will ultimately boost the company's bottom line.

The item, an eco-friendly disposable diaper named Rear Gear, is on shelves in Babies R Us stores this week. The Hicksville company, BabyGanics, spent more than a year developing the diaper, which chief executive Kevin Schwartz said is made from biologically based materials, free of potentially harmful chemicals such as chlorine and lined with a blend of oils to help protect the baby's skin.

BabyGanics, which has been in business since 2002, is crawling into a formidable market, industry experts said, where chlorine-free diapers made from biomaterials are already being sold.

The disposable diaper industry in the United States and Canada generates about $6 billion in annual revenue, with only a sliver of the market occupied by eco-friendly diapers, said Pricie Hanna, a managing partner at hygiene products consultancy Price Hanna.

Competitors in eco-friendly diaper niche run into a frustrating challenge: As the product ranks higher on the green meter, it typically falls in comfort and leakage protection, Hanna said.

"But there is an opportunity for someone who can deliver at the best value the kind of performance that people have gotten used to," she said, adding that the placement of BabyGanics' diaper in Babies R Us will reach the most parents looking for such a specialty product.

Time will tell whether the diaper will resonate with consumers, Hanna said, as parents test out how the Rear Gear diaper performs in comfort and leak guarding.

The "green" aspect of the diaper will help fuel interest in the product, said Judith Russell, an analyst with retail strategy newsletter The Robin Report.

"There's been an explosion of launches of new companies and new product lines catering toward the eco-conscious and toxin-conscious new mom," she said.

For years, new parents have debated the convenience of disposable diapers versus their environmental impact. Some disposable diapers take up to 450 years to fully decompose, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2009, the EPA estimated that there were 3.8 million tons of disposable diapers in municipal waste systems.

An eco-friendly diaper made from biomaterials, such as BabyGanics' Rear Gear, would degrade faster than normal disposable diapers. Schwartz, the chief executive, said the company keeps the environmental focus in mind alongside the needs of the parent.

"For us to enter diapers, there's got to be a real need," he said, along with a chance to "provide our customers with a solution."

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