According to the Women’s Environmental Network, people who have periods will go through an average of over 11,000 disposable products in their lifetime. Moreover, tampons and pads amount to over 200,000 tonnes of waste per year.
However, unlike, say, eating meat, you can’t just give up having periods in order to save the planet. It’s a fine line between looking after yourself and looking after the planet.
One of the biggest taboos around periods is hygiene, and people often worry that reusable products may be less hygienic – but that is not the case! So, here are five alternatives to single-use plastic products that are better for you and for the planet.
1. Plastic-free pads and tampons
Pads, tampons, and panty liners are available from brands such as Natracare. Made from 100% certified organic cotton with no plastics, perfumes, or chlorine, they’re better for your vagina and for the environment. These are ideal for anyone who wants to take steps to make their periods more eco-friendly but doesn’t want to make too much of a radical lifestyle change. They’re slightly more expensive than regular pads or tampons, but worth it if you can afford it.
2. Menstrual cups
Neither disposable nor single-use, the menstrual cup is probably the most eco-friendly sanitary product. It’s more expensive than a box of pads or tampons, but it’s an investment, saving you money in the long run. Popular brand Mooncup says its cups hold three times the amount of blood as a regular tampon. After use, just give it a rinse and it’s ready to be reused.
Period underwear from brands such as Thinx and Flux are something to consider if internal sanitary products aren’t for you, but you still want to move away from single-use (and if you have a lighter flow). Pads are built into the lining of these pants; they can absorb up to two tampons worth of blood and can be worn all day. Rinse after use, put on a cold wash and then hang dry.
4. Reusable pads
Brands such as the Canadian company Lunapads are revolutionising the market with reusable pads that are easily washed after use – just rinse in cool water, machine wash, and dry. They cost more than regular pads, but like any other reusable product, they’re an investment.
5. Menstrual discs
Made by Flex, a company from California, this product lasts up to 12 hours and can hold the equivalent of five tampons’ worth of blood. The disc sits just past the vaginal canal instead of within it, like tampons and menstrual cups. Approved by gynaecologists, it’s said to have reduced the cramps of 70% of users and has no links to Toxic Shock Syndrome. The menstrual disc is not reusable, but apparently produces 60% less waste than tampons.
Remember menstrual products are not one size fits all, so make sure that you find the one that works for you! Products should come with instructions to make sure you are using them properly, but if you are unsure Planned Parenthood has a great online guide to menstrual products.