By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Quatia Osorio has raised five children, and her youngest, a 3-year-old, recently embraced potty training. One would think the 33-year-old mom would have been happy to say goodbye to diapers.
Instead, she’s willing to drive anywhere in Rhode Island, from Westerly to Woonsocket, to pick up the soiled diapers of other people’s kids. The Providence resident, who grew up on the city’s South Side and graduated from Bryant University in 2005, is the founder, owner and sole employee of Mama Blu Diaper Service.
“I used disposal diapers for my first three kids and I really didn’t like the way they worked,” Osorio said. “Plus, all we were doing was filling up the trash can and the landfill at the same time.”
She has estimated that about 30 million disposable diapers are buried in Johnston’s Central Landfill annually.
“I just want to capture some of that waste,” Osorio said. “Besides, they’re going to be wearing cloth when they’re done anyway.”
After the birth of her fourth child, now 4, Osorio began using cloth diapers. She found a good balance between detergents, wash cycle and water temperature that enabled her to properly clean reusable diapers. She also found that her two youngest children became potty trained more quickly.
In 2013, Mama Blu Diaper Service became a registered Rhode Island business, and two years later Osorio began picking up dirty diapers and dropping off clean ones. Today, she has 15 clients, mostly in Providence and as far away as East Greenwich. For this service, she charges $23.50 a week for Providence residents, and $30 a week for those living anywhere else in Rhode Island. Pick up and delivery day is Saturday.
For a comparison, she said, a $40 box of Pampers for newborns contains 200 diapers and lasts about two weeks.
Osorio said she is now the only cloth diaper service in the state. She would like to expand operations to a small warehouse space in South County. For now, though, Osorio has two washer-dryer sets at her home — one set for the business and the other for her family of seven. She does somebody’s laundry every day, and, when the weather allows, uses the clothesline in the backyard to dry that laundry.
Each Mama Blu Diaper Service client is given 140 cloth diapers, in various sizes to fit newborns — Osorio said they require the most diapers — infants and toddlers. Those 140 diapers remain with the same child until he or she is toilet trained. After that, they are assigned to the behind of another child, until they are only suitable as household rags for the Osorio family.
“I’m an old-school diaper service; no retail, just picking up, dropping off and washing diapers,” she said, noting that retaining customers is her biggest challenge. “Someone will get them a three-month service and after that they think they’re ready to wash diapers.”
ecoRI News learned it’s not as easy as simply throwing cloth diapers into the washer. Osorio explained that it takes proper agitation, water temperature and the the right detergents — she said she uses “green” detergents and oxygen bleach, the common term for sodium percarbonate, a compound of natural soda crystals and hydrogen peroxide. If the combination is off, she said, it could result in chemical burns or diapers that haven’t been properly cleaned.
Osorio gets her reusable cotton diapers from a California company, and offers organic and unbleached upon a client’s request. Besides finding some space in South County to grow her business, Osorio also would like to build her business around an exchange of services.
“I’d like to create a community feel to the business ... a barter system,” she said. “Stay-at-home moms could do the pick and drop-off in exchange for free diaper service.”
For now, she’s a one-woman operation, with some in-house help from the kids. Husband Alex just needs to remember his clothes get washed Sundays.