The UK flushes 1.5-2 BILLION sanitary items every year, many of which that end up as marine pollution (MSC).
On average, according to the MSC 4.8 sanitary items are found every 100m on beaches.
A year of disposable sanitary protection creates a carbon footprint of 5.3kg.
Cotton is one of the most water and pesticide hungry crops globally, yet used widely as a single use product.
Why switch to reusable period protection?
- Save money
- Save resources (energy, water)
- Prevent pollution, both chemical and plastic
- Life changing.
- Once adjusted, it's easier.
- There is an increasing range of products to fit you
What are the options?
We're going to go through some reusable period products. For many reasons reusable products might not be suitable for you. Organic sanitary products are your next best option. Many supermarkets and pharmacies now stock organic tampons. This is a great option for those who struggle with reusables, as cotton is a pesticide hungry crop when not grown organically.
Every single women is different. We all find different products work for us, and with resuables this is the same. What works for me, might not work for you. What is practical, ethical and workable is different for each and every one of us.
You might find, that reusable swap that works best for you is the one most similar to what you already use. If you use sanitary towls, you may find period pants or reusable pads easier. If you use tampons, reusable tampons or the cup might work better.
So here's some of the options for your to consider...
Washable Reusable Pads
A hugely popular option for those that normally use sanitary towels. They work in much to same way, except once used, you wash instead of throwing away.
There is an enormous range available online.
There are many small independent makers available through etsy as well as larger brands.
I would recommend natural fibres as much as possible to prevent health issues but also to prevent micro-fibre pollution when you wash your pads. Hannah of @zerowastehannah and the founder of Journey to Zero Waste Sussex recommends Earthwise. You can find out about our Editors experience with cheeky wipes here.
The menstrual cup does what it says on the tin.
Most are made from medical grade silicon, and are inserted into your lady parts to collect fluids. You need to empty them every 5-9 hours (depending on flow) give a rinse and reuse. They need good sterilisation at the end and start of each period.
I use a menstrual cup (I use mooncup) and it has changed my life. It took a while to get used to, this is COMPLETELY normal and you shouldn't ever in anyway feel pressured or anxious about switching. Sometimes I use the cup with pads.
Menstural cups offer many benefits, including reduced risk of TSS (although still do have a risk) and also better vaginal health. They are reusable for 10 years, washable and also offer being able to visually monitor your period- which can indicate health.
Cups are incredibly handy to have in your handbag between cycles, as they are lightweight, can be used before your cycle (to prevent surprises when you are semi-expecting your cycle!) and are probably my favourite zero waste swap in general to save money, and an incredibly handy item to pack whilst travelling.
There are more and more cup brands "popping up". Here is some of the brands I know about, but there are many more. Also, some offer a one for one scheme, in which they donate a menstrual cup to vulnerable girls when you buy one.
Period pants are special pants that are absorbent. They can be worn throughout your cycle, and are especially designed to prevent leakage.
Many like period pants when making a transition from sanitary towels. There are a range of sanitary pants available, with the biggest brand being Shethinx.
Period pants are also a good option to wear alongside the menstrual cup for a little bit more security. With more brands becoming available, it's also possible to know get period pants are sexier than expected!
Period pants can't be worn in water.
Reusable tampons are now also available as a specially designed product. Many regions around the world have been using an equivalent of reusable tampons for generations, but now it's possible to buy specially designed reusable tampons. They are tightly compacted and rolled wads of fabric with a string attached. They can be used and washed.
Not yet as widely known or available, the only specialised reusable tampons we have seen are from Imse Vimse.
Using your new reusable period products might be different at first. Most take a little getting used to.
Each and every product is different, so make SURE you read the specific instructions for the period products you buy.
You can also get a wealth of support online when making the transition.
If you'd like some advice about switching period products, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line: lets chat periods.
You can find my blog posts, social media posts and videos discussing period products below.