Nowadays, most of us rely on big-brand single-use period products (mainly tampons and pads) for the majority of our life. Not only does this drain our wallet, with the average woman spending £5,000 on period products throughout her lifetime, but it’s also contributing massive amounts of waste to landfill. Its time to say hello to plastic free periods and zero waste monthly cycles
It’s not just landfills that single-use period products end up in either – menstrual products are currently the 5th most common item found on European beaches. While plastic tampon applicators seem to be particularly concerning, most other single-use period products contain plastic as well. Single-use period products also come with other concerns, especially when it comes to intimate health. They are often bleached with chemicals you would not want to come in contact with one of the most sensitive parts of your body and end up drying out the vaginal tissue, leading to discomfort or itching.
Thankfully, the times when big-brand tampons and pads were the only option and having a sustainable period seemed like a wild dream are long gone. There are many different alternatives which are not only plastic free (and often completely zero waste), but also much better for your intimate health. Plastic free periods are easier and more comfortable now than ever before.
Soft menstrual cups have seen a massive rise in popularity in recent years – and that’s for a good reason. The big win is that, while you’ll pay around £24 for your cup, it will last you for up to 10 years! You only need one cup, there’s no need to buy several as you would with other reusable period products.
Most menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone, although some brands do use latex – always double-check the material if you are allergic to latex. They can hold about 3x the amount of blood that is absorbed by a large tampon but, in contrast to a tampon, they only collect menstrual blood and don’t absorb other naturally occurring moisture.
After inserting your menstrual cup, it can stay in your body for around 8 hours. Then, you’ll need to remove it, wash it with unscented natural soap and it’s ready to use again. After your period ends, you’ll also want to sterilise it. Doing this is as easy as boiling the cup in a pot – but if you’d rather not use the pots you cook in to boil your cup, try a sterilising cup that lets you sterilise your cup in the microwave.
Reusable pads and period underwear
Perhaps you’ve always been more of a pad person. In that case, you’ll likely find that reusable sanitary pads or period underwear are the best solutions for you. They both work on the same principle – you wear them while bleeding and wash them afterwards so that they can be reused. The difference, as you’ve likely gathered, is that with reusable pads, you only need to change the pad, whereas with period underwear, you’ll have to change your underwear every time you need a new pad.
Which of these works best for you is largely up to personal preference. Reusable pads can be a little bulkier than period underwear, but they’re easier to change and more compact.
This option will also save you a lot of money in the long run, similarly to the menstrual cup. A pack of 5 moderate flow pads will cost you around £30 and, if you take good care of them, they could last you around 3-4 years. Plastic free periods on a budget have never been so easy.
More sustainable single-use products
If neither of these two options sounds quite like something that’s right for you, you might want to start by simply switching to a more eco-friendly brand of tampons or pads.
For tampons, we highly recommend that you give plastic free tampons without an applicator a try. Once you get used to inserting them, you can save a lot of waste by skipping the applicator! Alternatively, did you know that plastic free applicators were a thing? If you want to take the switch a little slower, you could start off with plastic free tampons with a cardboard, biodegradable applicator instead of the pesky plastic.
Single-use pads can also be made significantly more sustainable to help you achieve the goal of plastic free periods. There are a number of brands out there these days offering plastic free and organic alternatives such as TOTM and &Sisters, but our favourites are Grace & Green and their organic cotton pads which come packaged in cardboard and are free from any pesticides, chemicals, bleach and fragrances.
Every one of us is different and we all have different priorities and preferences when it comes to that time of the month. However, with more and more options for sustainable and plastic free periods becoming more widely available, almost anyone can make their period a whole lot better for the environment with a few minor changes.
We’d love to hear which work best for you, and how you have ‘greened’ your monthly cycle. Comments below 🙂