Menstrual products and their impact on the environment

The first time I actually became aware of the fact that my period pads were made of plastic and generated a lot of waste, I was shocked. I mean, of course I knew there were made of synthetic materials, but to me it was such a normal product that I had never paid attention to the fact that I was sending all these pads to landfill. Sometimes it is amazing how we are so used to some stuff that we don’t even question them.

So ladies this post is for you, my aim today is summarise why these pads are problematic and give you some options to try.

I decided to split this topic in two blog posts, otherwise it would be too long. Next week I’ll write about my personal experience using one of these alternatives.

I know some of you may be thinking: “Don’t want to know, that’s a bit too much”. I have heard that before and I get it, it is different and certainly no conventional, but please if this is you I encourage you to read it and later you can decide if you want to act on this information.

Impact on the environment

When we buy for instance personal care products we can easily read the label and know the ingredients used, but when we buy a pack of menstrual products we can’t really know the materials these products are made of.

Something I learnt while researching information for this post was the fact that in Australia tampons and pads are classified as a medical device under the  Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Due to this classification and according to ABC these companies are not legally required to disclose what their products are made of. However, pads and tampons which are the common items we normally use during those “nice” days, both have plastic. According to the information provided by the BBC in this article:

“Pads, the product favoured around the world, can in some cases be made up of about 90% plastic – containing as much as four supermarket bags. Tampons are predominantly cotton and rayon but have components made up of polyester materials. Many come individually wrapped with plastic applicators”

Well, because of their “plastic” nature and the way they are sometimes disposed, these products contribute to our already complicated Plastic Ocean issue. According to the Guardian:

“In their 2016 beach clean-up, the Marine Conservation Society found 20 tampons and sanitary items per 100 metres of shoreline”

And even if they don’t end up in the ocean, there are other factors to consider when thinking about their impact:

  • Resources wasted: Given that these are disposable products, all the resources used during the manufacturing process get quickly wasted. Materials like cotton (these crops requires good amounts of water and pesticides to be produced) and all the synthetic materials that are used for the product and the also the packaging.
  • Non-biodegradable materials: in landfill these materials won’t degrade for years polluting the environment.
  • Emissions: All the materials and end products have to be transported long distances to get to their final destinations around the world. Think CO2 emissions.

As you can see these common items are not so great for the planet.

Quick numbers

  • Let’s say women on average menstruate for around 35 years of their lives.
  • Imagine 10 pads are used each month, that would be 120 items in a year.
  • Now, multiplying those 120 pads x 35 years = 4.200 pads sent to landfill

Now picture that number and multiply it for millions of women around the world throwing away similar amount of these items.  And it seems I am being modest with my numbers, according to Independent UK  it’s been estimated that the average woman disposes 11.000 sanitary products in her lifetime.

The same article above also states that one single pad can take up to 500 years to break down. No one can’t deny that these numbers are really tragic for the environment!

Alternatives

Fortunately these days there are plenty of options to the conventional menstrual products:

Cloth pads/tampons

These are just exactly as the conventional sanitary products just that they are made of fabric and you wash them and reuse them.

This is my personal choice, I have used cloth pads for more than 3 years and I love them. I’ll be telling you all about it in next week post.

I can’t comment on cloth tampons. I am not big fan of tampons so I am no interest in trying them at all.

The menstrual cup

A small device, usually made of silicon or latex rubber that you insert down there, the same you would do with a tampon but it doesn’t require an applicator. It is a reusable product, some companies say they can easily last 10 years.

I’ve tried it before and it didn’t’ work for me but I have friends using these products and they are extremely happy. Maybe the cup didn’t work for me because I don’t like tampons and also at that time I was already using cloth pads and I liked them.

It is a personal choice. It is about finding the right option for you. So please learn more about it and give it a go. I promise I’ll write a future post and I’ll ask one of my friends to tell you all about it. In the meantime this is how you use it.

Period underwear

These are the most recent invention to fight disposable menstrual products. As the name suggests these are panties that have leak-proof layers to collect the blood.

They come in different styles and sizes. There are different brands available in the market, but I have never tried them so I can’t tell you how effective they are. I think these may be great to wear as a back up for a menstrual cup for example.

Maybe I will try them at some stage and I’ll write about it.

Disposable pads and tampons made from biodegradable materials

These are just as the conventional products but they are plastic-free, causing less negative impact on the environment.

I personally think that reusable products are the best solution, however switching to more responsible brands for disposable menstrual products is definitely a good start.

Next week I am gonna focus on Cloth Pads which is my personal choice and I’ll tell you about my experience using them for several years. Stay tuned!

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”― Chief Seattle

Ladies, we don’t tend to talk much about this subject with our friends, periods are no precisely an interesting subject for most women. But maybe if we spoke more about it we could spread the message and rise some awareness about these issues and the available alternatives. Would you help me to share this info with your women friends? Please leave your comments below.

Let’s connect on Social Media!

Thanks for reading,

Diana

By | 2018-08-20T16:05:00+10:00 July 20th, 2018|Plastic-free|0 Comments

About the Author:

I am Diana. I write about my journey trying to live a greener lifestyle and how we collectively can make a difference revisiting our beliefs and daily habits, learning more about the environment and being an active participant.

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