Periods, although a perfectly normal part of life, are still not often discussed within wider society. Yet, they are an integral part of womanhood and result in huge amounts of waste being produced. One woman alone will dispose of approximately 11,000 sanitary products over the course of her lifetime. Each product can take as long as 500 years to breakdown because it contains large amounts of plastic and synthetic materials. For women who want to lead more sustainable lifestyles, reusable sanitary products are proving to be a popular alternative.
Zero Waste Scotland -#TrialPeriod
It was the posters and a range of advertising by Zero Waste Scotland and their #TrialPeriod campaign, which caught our attention. The campaign aimed to provide awareness and information about reusable sanitary products and encouraged women to give them a go.
In the spirit of examining all aspects of a sustainable lifestyle, we decided to find out more
about the various types of sanitary products available and how they actually work.
The Menstrual Cup
Menstrual cups are the most sustainable alternative, lasting up to 10 years and reducing your carbon footprint by around 90%. They are made from medical-grade silicone and are a great alternative to tampons. Yet, rather than absorbing menstrual blood (like tampons do), they collect it. They are just as leakproof as regular pads and tampons and can be used for 10-12 hours, depending on your flow.
They can be easily cleaned, by emptying them and giving them a rinse before reusing. They should be sterilised at the end of your period for a few minutes in boiling water and will then be ready to reuse the following month.
Sanitary Cloth Paths
Sanitary cloth pads are very similar to regular plastic pads. One of the biggest differences is that they don’t have the adhesive strips. Instead, most have wings which snap into place or are secured by poppers to help keep them in place. They can last for up to 5 years and tend to ‘breathe’ better than plastic pads because they are usually made from cotton or, in a small number of cases, bamboo fabric.
Their snap wings mean that they can easily fold up into small squares, making them very portable. Some are also sold with waterproof bags, meaning you will be able to easily and discreetly roll them away. Cloth pads can be bought individually or as a set (which is cheaper). You have different types and lengths, as well as a variety of designs, to choose from.
Cloth pads are easy to clean; you simply rinse them in some cold water and then wash them in the washing machine in cold or warm settings. You can also put them in a wash bag to separate them from other clothes if you prefer. They tend to dry quickly and can be either air dried or tumble dried on a low setting.
Period pants are knickers which are specifically designed to absorb your menstrual blood. They range in absorbency levels (from light to heavy) so you may need to experiment with finding one which is most appropriate for you and your flow. They are very absorbent (holding approximately 20ml of blood, or about two tampons worth) and leak-resistant. Depending on your level of care, they can last for up to two years.
Period pants contain moisture-wicking technology, as well as antimicrobial fibres, which make them hygienic and help to neutralize odours and bacteria. They are very convenient, as they don’t need to be changed throughout the day and they can be used in conjunction with other reusable products, such as the cup. Similarly to cloth pads, they simply need to be rinsed in cold water and then washed in the washing machine at 30 degrees and left to air dry.
So, this week we would like to invite women to consider their own habits and use of sanitary products. Consider how many tampons or sanitary pads you use each month.
Of the three options currently available, which one do you feel most comfortable with? Is there an option you would consider trying?
We invite you to switch to one of the reusable sanitary products available as a trial or experiment. If that seems too much of a change, then we invite you to start a discussion with your peers – of all genders - about the topic. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, explore why.
As always, feel free to share your experiences and ideas in the comments.