Disposable menstrual products are what most of us are used to when it comes to dealing with our periods. However, research has shown that disposable menstrual products are not only very harmful to the environment, but they might also be harmful to our bodies.
Traditional menstrual products contain dangerous substances like bleach, perfume, dioxin, which is a known carcinogen, and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), that affect the normal functioning of the endocrine system. Tampon use has also been linked to a condition called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), caused by bacteria from tampons that release toxins into the body. It can be fatal if it’s not treated right away.
Sustainable sanitary products do not contain any of these harmful substances. They are made from natural materials like cotton or bamboo and recyclable materials like silicone, which means they are safer and friendlier to the environment. Traditional sanitary products cannot be recycled so they end up in landfills. In the UK, the 4.3 billion menstrual products used every year result in 200.000 tonnes of waste going to landfill. A single reusable product can replace thousands of disposable products, and it can also save money and time.
This is a guide to the top 4 sustainable alternatives to disposable menstrual products so that you can have a relaxed and zero-waste period. And on top of that, you will never have to worry about buying single-use pads and tampons ever again!
The menstrual cup is perhaps the most popular sustainable period product because it is very easy to use, comfortable due to its anatomical shape and a great alternative to tampons. A cup can be safely worn for up to 12 hours, then cleaned and used again. Made of medical-grade silicone, brands claim that cups can last for up to a decade, and they can be recycled at the end of their lifespan, saving a lot of waste. A variety of shapes, sizes, and colours of cups are available on the market to accommodate all needs and preferences. The Diva Cup is the most famous menstrual cup. It’s been on the market for about 20 years now and it’s known for its signature hot pink colour and smart design. It retails for £30 online and the brand also offers a plant-based cleanser for your cup for £11. Other options include the TOTM Cup, £19, the OrganiCup, £20, and the Lily Cup, which also has a collapsible version for £25 that folds flat for easy storage and travel.
Menstrual discs are similar to menstrual cups but they have a flatter shape and lack the stem of menstrual cups, making them more comfortable for people with a low cervix. They are just as efficient though, providing up to 12 hours of protection and they can hold as much fluid as 5 regular tampons. Menstrual discs also let you have mess-free sex while on your period. The Ziggy Cup (£35) and Nixit (£45) are some of the sustainable menstrual cups available on the market right now.
Unlike regular pads which are made from up to 90% plastic, reusable sanitary pads are made from mostly natural materials like cotton and bamboo fibres as well as some synthetic fibres, which makes them much more gentle for the body and for the environment. They can be washed in the washing machine on a normal cycle and reused month after month. Brands like DAME, available at Boots, offer reusable pads made from natural materials with innovative technologies that make them highly absorbent and ensure leak-proof protection all day long. DAME's set includes a reusable liner, a regular pad, a night pad and a dry bag for easy changing and washing and retails for £34.
Period underwear is designed to look and feel just like regular underwear, but it has a highly absorbent area that uses the latest technologies to help you stay dry, comfortable and protected. They can go in the washing machine and are recyclable, ensuring many months of zero waste periods! The ‘Hiphugger’ and the ‘Super Hiphugger’ are two types of period underwear available from brand Thinx. Respectively, they can absorb up to 3 and 5 regular tampons’ worth of fluid and are perfectly discreet. They retail online for £25 and £29. There are also plenty of other designs that come in inclusive sizes ranging from XXS to 3XL.
Next time you have to buy a pack of pads or tampons from the shop, consider going for one of these more sustainable alternatives instead. They may cost more than a pack of disposable products but they save you a lot more money and time in the long run, and you also get to minimise your waste production, lower your carbon footprint and help save the planet!
Guide written by Alexandra Stegerean (@alexandrastege)