I'll just focus on diapers, but I will probably end up spouting off about the wonderful world of infant potty training/elimination communication/natural infant hygeine.
People in the USA used to start potty training really early. Like two or three months old. This was back when there were no disposable diapers, and no automatic washing machines. When washing machines got to be more popular, good old Dr. Spock suggested waiting longer to potty train, like 9 months old or so. In 1957 half of all babies started potty training by 9 months old.
Then Pampers came out. In 1961 Dr. Brazelton (who's name is really familiar to me for some reason) signed up to sing Pampers praises. He then said that it was important to make sure that children are emotionally, physically, and psychologically ready to potty-train. This would be around 2 1/2 years old. Gee, do you think maybe Pampers benefited from Dr. Brazelton's research (which if you read Early Start Potty Training you will find is fairly flawed)?
Thats a pretty good reason to not use disposable diapers for me (or at least Pampers).
Diaper rash! Did you know diaper rash is actual ammonia burns from urine? It used to be considered a serious sign of neglect, and only 7% of babies suffered from it. Now its up around 78% and not considered a big deal.
Male infertility and undescended testicles have coinsided with the rates of children in disposable diapers.
Dioxin is a by-product of disposable diaper making. Dioxin is a carcinogen and also causes nerve damage. Organotins are toxic compounds found in many disposable diapers, often in the absorbant gel. They cause immune system harm and have been found to be the cause of Toxic Shock Syndrome in tampon users.
On average, disposable diaper wearers take an additional year to potty train. The reason it takes so long is because the baby/child can't feel when they are wet. This is also why they have so much diaper rash, because its hard to tell when they are wet, and they don't complain about it because its not uncomfortable.