A Guide to Sustainable Period Products

Periods Sustainable

Here’s a list of alternatives to single-use menstrual products all menstruators should try out!

According to a 2018 report from National Geographic, American women bought a total of 5.8 billion tampons in one year alone, with a vast majority winding up in landfills as plastic waste. In Europe, period products are the fifth most common plastic waste found on the beaches, even more than plastic bags and straws.

Single-use, disposable menstrual products are harmful to the environment because they are made up of a lot of single-use plastic. Traditional sanitary napkins contain up to 90% plastic and tampons up to 6%. Tampons come wrapped in plastic envelopes, encased in plastic applicators and attached with plastic strings dangling from one end. Sanitary napkins contain even more plastic, from the adhesive base to the synthetics that soak up liquids to the plastic wrapping.

Fortunately, there are now a lot of eco-friendly, sustainable options for any and all of your period needs. There are menstrual cups, period underwear and sanitary napkins that are reusable after a thorough wash. 

1. Menstrual cup

Menstrual cups are flexible funnel-shaped cups made of rubber or silicone that can be inserted into your vagina. Once the cup is in, it springs open to create an airtight seal that catches period fluid while preventing any leaks. Menstrual cups can collect more blood than any other method, including tampons and sanitary napkins. 

Brands such as DivaCup and LilyCup offer menstrual cups in varying sizes: smaller menstrual cups are recommended for women who haven’t given birth, while larger ones are for those who have heavier periods or who have delivered vaginally. 

Reusable menstrual cups should be washed and wiped clean before reinsertion. Reusable menstrual cups are durable and can last for 6 months or more with proper care. 

2. Period underwear

Leakproof underwear can comfortably cling onto your curves and absorb period fluids. They are usually made from materials like nylon and elastane, which are highly absorbent materials. One piece of underwear can usually last you through one day of flow, but a spare pair may be needed for those with a heavier flow.

However, you must do research on each individual brand before buying their underwear. Studies have found that famous brand Thinx may contain toxins called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the crotch area of some of their underwear styles. PFAS exposure has been associated with cancer, decreased fertility and even decreased immune response to vaccines. Users have complained about other brands such as Knix for not having enough front-to-back coverage which results in leaks.

3. Reusable sanitary napkins

As with disposable single-use pads, reusable pads are secured to the crotch of your underwear and absorb menstrual fluid externally. They come in different sizes to accommodate different levels of flow. You should change your pads after four to eight hours and either wash them using soap and water or throw them in the wash.

Period Aisle claims that their pads can hold up to four tampons’ worth of fluid and are good to use even on your heaviest days. They’re made with breathable cotton in black and other fun, colorful prints. 

Header image courtesy of Unsplash

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