Periods aren’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about plastic waste. But they’re far from environmentally friendly.
In fact, standard period products routinely contain up to 90% plastic, and take in excess of 500 years to break down. That’s over 7 times the average lifetime of the person using them. In other words, if Jane Austen had used them, they would still be decomposing today!
Let’s be honest though: periods are taboo. That’s why I believe it’s even more important to talk about periods, both on a personal and emotional level, and in terms of the waste that they create.
Meet Ella Daish – she’s a UK-based activist and founder of the #EndPeriodPlastic campaign. She is on a mission to persuade supermarkets and manufacturers to remove the plastic from their period products.
Her campaign has resulted in 3 UK supermarkets stopping production of their own brand plastic tampon applicators, saving over 17 tonnes of plastic a year. Her great work is the reason that this topic has been brought to the forefront of many people’s awareness over the past few years.
The Old Me
The old me sat firmly in the mainstream camp of tampons and pads. It struck me occasionally that this added up to be pretty wasteful. But that’s just what people did, right?!
As I got deeper into the world of sustainability, I discovered that there were other – significantly more sustainable – alternatives to the standard plastic-based period products such as menstrual cups and reusable pads.
I’ll admit that I came up against a lot of resistance to change my period routine to go zero waste. I didn’t like the idea of the menstrual cup and always took a ‘maybe next month’ approach.
Until I was caught short one time and I had to make a decision at the supermarket. Gone are my days of using those plastic-based tampons and pads. Whilst there was a small adjustment period (pardon the pun), I was happily sold on the switch by the second month.
The New Me
My personal go-to zero waste period setup is a period cup and period underwear combo. I personally have a couple of heavy days at the start of my period where I use the cup and then several much lighter days where period pants are perfect.
I know a few girls with really heavy flow who feel more confident if they double up a menstrual cup and period pants. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you.
I now have four or five pairs of Thinx period underwear which I swear by. They come in a range of fits and styles to suit all needs and tastes. Personally, I prefer lower rise underwear so most of mine are this style.
Lilycup Menstrual Cup
My personal go-to is the Lilycup One. I absolutely LOVE the fact that it folds down and comes with a handy case so that you can always have it stashed away in your handbag.
I actually have two of these: one that I carry with me and one that my husband keeps in his bag in case of emergencies (he’s a keeper – what can I say?!).
There are other alternatives…
I have also tried reusable menstrual pads, but I found them to be very bulky, and I just preferred period underwear.
It’s important to remember that these zero waste period products I have listed above may be a bit more of an outlay at the start, but they will save you money (and stress) in the long term.
Organic period products
If you don’t like the idea of trying reusable period products, there are great organic alternatives to the mainstream products out there. Check out Ella’s list of eco period brands here.
What to do about it
This post will be successful if it gets you to do one of two things:
- Question the period products that you personally choose to use.
- Engaging in conversation with others about the impacts of their choices in something as seemingly trivial as menstrual products.