I recently wrote another blog post about plastic waste in the skincare industry and I’d like to continue on that same topic but this time focusing on a different type of product.
While I am now of the opinion that people should take care of their skin and use moisturizers, sunscreen etc. to protect their largest organ (yes, it’s true!), I acknowledge that you can live without contributing to the waste generated by this industry every year. But, there is one thing that roughly half of us find hard to live without: sanitary products for people who menstruate.
Tampons and pads create massive amounts of waste each year, and a large portion of the waste is plastic that will never be recycled but will instead end up in landfills.
So why do we keep using them if we know this?
I honestly don’t know if we even reflect on the fact that tampons and pads along with other sanitary products create such enormous amounts of waste. Just like diapers for babies, we are really dependent on these products and it’s difficult to see that there might be other alternatives. Especially since disposable tampons etc. are usually viewed as extremely hygienic which potentially makes us regard them as the best alternative.
For the first ten years or so of my period, I followed the routine where most women in the developed nations with easy access to disposable products will buy tampons/pads, use them and then throw them away. I was very conscious of never flushing anything and tried to buy organic cotton whenever I had the chance.
I was just living like everybody else I knew. I never thought about the waste-aspect of the whole thing because I didn’t even know I had viable alternatives.
Now, today, we’re extremely lucky in that there are actually plenty of alternatives that are much better for the environment. It took a while but after my bad conscience had eaten away at my own arguments, I realized that I needed to do some research and find better alternatives. Which I did.
Three alternatives to disposable tampons/pads that are much better for you and the environment:
Menstrual cups are typically made from silicone and last for several years which means that they do not create nearly as much waste as disposable tampons do. This is a definite plus and you can buy them in so many different places nowadays, both online and in store.
To sterilize the cup before first use and after last use of every cycle, you boil it in water for a few minutes. It’s very easy to use, and you’ll get instructions on how to use it included in the package when you buy one.
I have tried several different menstrual cups and they have unfortunately not worked for me at all. I’ve tried so many times with different sizes, techniques etc. but they always end up leaking which means that I’ve had to wear a pad in addition to a cup which defeats the whole purpose of wearing one in the first place.
But just because I’ve decided that the cup is not for me doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it. They’re fairly affordable so I would still recommend you to buy one and try it out. If it doesn’t work you have other alternatives.
Reusable cloth pads
I am so happy I found these! They’re actually not hard to find, but I didn’t even know they existed until around four years ago. The ones I have are made from sustainably sourced cotton and they come in different sizes. I got several big ones (for nighttime) and even more regular ones and I have been so happy with them.
Supposedly, you should keep them in a bucket of cold water and exchange that water every day until laundry day. I’m guessing it is to prevent staining. I did that for a week just when I got them, but it was a real hassle and I felt it was not very… nice be honest. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they stain a little (which they do after a while) because you’re presumably the only one who will be seeing them anyway.
Now, they are not for everyone and maybe not for every day either. I can easily wear them when I’m doing yoga but I cannot wear them if I’m biking (ouch!) or running because they’ll slide all over the place. But I love them and will continue to use them.
I haven’t actually tried these but I can imagine that they’re perhaps even more comfortable than the reusable pads since these can feel a bit bulky at times. They also look very much like regular underwear which is another plus. Just like the reusable pads, you just wash them when you’ve used them.
I don’t know how long you can wear these without changing but I can’t imagine having to bring a whole new pair of new underwear every time I go somewhere… That’s the only downside that I can see, apart from them maybe being a bit harder to find (I’ve only seen them once) but if you manage to figure that out, I think it could be a great option!
These are the alternatives I can think of. Please, comment if you know of any other ones. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Together, we can reduce the unnecessary waste produced by this industry.