In the UK, tampons, sanitary pads and liners including their packaging generates more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year and they all contain plastics. Did you know that sanitary pads are 90% plastic? Whilst they are great and easy methods to use during your period; they are definitely not the best and most sustainable methods to use.
The average woman throws away around 125-150 kg of sanitary products in their lifetimes.
In 2010, it was found that an average of 23 sanitary pads and nine tampon applicators were washed up per kilometre of the British coastline. It is a major problem which people do not really address in the public sphere; the focus of beaches have always been on the plastic bottle and plastic bag issue, not the menstrual products. This is something that needs to be addressed.
It’s not just the environmental impact that we need to be concerned about, these menstrual products also affect our health. Conventional pads and tampons are full of chemicals that go on or inside of the most porous part of your body. Whilst there are regulations on this, do you really want to be putting a bleached cotton tampon inside your body? Why not seek a more healthy and sustainable menstrual product?
A menstrual cup is a sustainable and healthier product, created for menstruating persons to use on their periods to collect the fluid, instead of absorbing it like tampons and pads do. The cup is made from medical grade silicone which reduces the chances of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS.) It is healthier for you as it does not disrupt the PH levels in your body. Also, the cup lasts 10 years costing approximately between £16-25, compared to the frequent purchasing of tampons and pads it is a lot cheaper in the long run.
Related post: Is the Mooncup worth it?
You insert the cup and your blood is collected and once the cup is full, you simply remove it, empty it out, wash the cup and reinsert. The rule of thumb is to tip the blood out at the end of each day. The cup can stay in for about 12 hours, without leakage if you inserted it correctly and depending on your flow.
Prior to using a menstrual cup, I had relied on pads alone. Although convenient and something I grew up with. Committing to sustainable living meant that I couldn’t overlook the problem that they are disposable. I jumped straight into using a reusable menstrual cup for the first time 3 years ago and it was tricky. I’m not saying the cup is an easy road, it’s anything but. However, I got on board with the idea and was able to use it quite well I would say. However right now I have taken a slightly different sustainable option.
This is what I now use when I’m menstruating. I felt like this option was best for me, something I was used too and super easy to manage. Yes there’s more effort to this than the cup, you have to change them like disposable ones more regularly. Additionally, you have to rinse your liners and then wash them after your cycle too. However if you are a little sceptical about the cup then this is another option.
These pads are typically made from cotton or sustainable fabric such as bamboo. They snap around your underwear like conventional pads. Coming in different sizes, for heavier or lighter days as well as different patterns. They are great as a starting point, working your way to try other methods. I personally love them, they feel comfortable unlike the standard disposables. I have a set that work for me during my cycle, I don’t run out of liners and the liners fit my body. This took some trial and error, which is to expected when trying a new routine. So if it takes you a while to learn your body and flow, don’t stress. It’s normal.
A sustainable menstrual cycle article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning free bleeding. Free bleeding sounds like a crazy concept, right? However, period pants allow you to do just that without fear of leakage or having to get any other products. They look like regular underwear, but they are designed with extra material to absorb menstrual blood.
Period pants are machine washable and have a lifespan of many years, so after the initial investment, the continual use of them should cut down your menstruation expenses, especially if used alone or coupled with other sustainable menstrual products. Making them a great alternative to disposable products. I have not used them personally but it is another sustainable option for periods.
Environmentally, socially and economically, all the methods mentioned have a more sustainable aspect to them. There are some other methods that I didn’t mention such as a sea sponge and reusable tampons, that are more eco-friendly as well. Lots to choose from so what’s stopping you? Help save the planet by using one or two of these options and have a positive impact on your wallet, health and the environment in the process.