07 Aug How to have a zero waste period
Knowing how to have a zero waste period and what sustainable period products are available is essential for every woman.
Disposable sanitary protection is a huge and growing problem, environmentally speaking. Disposable sanitary towels, or pads, are made up of 90% plastic. Tampons too come individually wrapped and often with plastic applicators. An average woman will have periods for about 2,400 days over the course of her lifetime. As a result, the average woman will throw away over 10,000 disposable sanitary items in her lifetime.
The impact on the environment is dire, and along similar lines to other single use plastics. City to Sea report that menstrual products are the fifth most commonly found item on British beaches. To put that in context, that means that more sanitary products end up on our beaches than straws or disposable coffee cups. Even for products which don’t end up on our beaches, they do end up in landfill or incinerated.
Yet zero waste periods can feel like a difficult concept to get your head around. You want and need menstrual products which feel clean and hygienic, as well as secure, and without any more faffing than periods already are.
Sustainable period products are nothing new!
Believe it or not, looking at the full span of history, it is plastic period products that are the newbies on the scene. Women over millennia have used products they can recycle, or which are natural and biodegrade (such as the Ancient Egyptians using papyrus). Even menstrual cups aren’t, in concept, a new thing. For most women over recent centuries, cloths and rags were worn.
So, that gives us hope and encouragement: having a zero waste period is both possible and been done by countless women for generations before us.
The fantastic news is that reusable and zero waste period products have come on a long way, and the modern equivalents are a cut above what’s been before.
Zero waste period pads, cups and pants
The main environmentally friendly sustainable period products for a zero waste period are menstrual cups, reusable sanitary pads and period pants. Some women will favour just one product, like with disposable items. Others will use a combination, perhaps depending on where they are within their period in terms of flow.
Typically, many women are at first wary of reusable period products because of thoughts that it is unhygienic or difficult to manage. It’s easier to flush or bin and forget about it. But once you know about the impact on the planet, combined with the knowledge that it’s costing you £4800 over your lifetime, it becomes clear that you should make a change.
Realistically, concerns that it is unpleasant are due to it being ingrained into women by society. It’s not disgusting, it is manageable, and is far less unpleasant than many of the other things we do regularly!
So what are your options for sustainable period products?
Talula menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone, comfortable and easy to use. They need emptying around every 2 hours when your flow is heavy, but can remain in for up to 10 hours when bleeding more lightly, or overnight.
With a menstrual cup, you simply empty the blood into the toilet. It’s recommended to have two cups and rotate these, sterilising between use. Sterilising a menstrual cup is easy. You can simply use boiling water for 5 minutes. The cup itself will last for around a decade.
Talula pink is suited to those under 35 or who have not given birth vaginally. Talula purple is for those over 35 or who have had a vaginal birth. For an extra feel good factor, Talula Cup UK donates some of its profits to supporting the menstrual health of women in Zambia.
Reusable sanitary pads
At Wearth we stock Plastfree organic sanitary pads and Oflo reusable sanitary pads which are available in a range of designs and for different flow rates. Oflo’s pads are made using sustainable bamboo fleece and organic cotton cloth. They are the ideal zero waste period pads as they are plastic free, highly absorbent and non-toxic.
Zero waste period pads like these are also really easy to use. You choose the right pad for the heaviness of your flow. They fasten in your underwear using a popper. After use, you soak the pad in cold water for at least an hour, rinse, and then pop into a normal wash. Just don’t use fabric softener as this will affect the absorbency of the fabric. Dry naturally, rather than in the tumble drier. Pads like these should last you around 6-8 years before they need replacing.
What’s more, Oflo pads are handmade in Bristol. We love the fact that they are UK made.
Finally, an option instead of zero waste period pads which is still sustainable is to use period pants, such as those made by LUXstore. Their organic period wear comes in high-waisted, bikini, and thong styles.
They require similar care to reusable pads. After use you rinse them in cold water and then simply put them in the washing machine. LUXstore’s period pants can be reused for up to 50 washes. Period pants are designed to be moisture-wicking whilst also being breathable, and are much more comfortable than plastic pads. They can cope with moderate to heavy flow and leave you feeling secure.
Period pants are particularly good for teens and younger girls starting on their period journey, who may feel daunted by the idea of a menstrual cup, or feel self-conscious about managing reusable pads when out and about.
Protecting the environment, saving money
A period doesn’t have to be wasteful if you make the right decisions. All of the above items are relatively low cost. When you compare them to the cost of disposable items, you can see how you quickly stop throwing money down the drain or into the bin too. You’ll no longer be exposed to the chemicals, bleach and plastic used in tampons and sanitary towels either.
Make the change and see for yourself that a zero waste period is hassle-free and guilt-free when you have the right sustainable period products.