While life has slowed down during COVID-19, something that doesn’t stop during a pandemic is our periods.
Did you know that an average menstruator will use more than 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime? This can amount to spending up to £18,450, which is quite a hit to your bank balance. Disposable menstrual products can also be damaging to the environment, with one pad containing up to 90% plastic.
Even tampons contain plastic, not just in the wrapper but also in the tampon itself. This is harming our oceans with 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste being found on average per 100m of beach in the UK. And we’ve all seen the pictures of turtles tangled in plastic.
Sustainable period products
However, there are some planet and purse-friendly options out there. While our choice of period product is a very personal one, and we all have different preferences and needs, it is important to be able to make an informed decision about what’s best for you. We’ve put together this short guide to help give you some more information about sustainable period products.
Organic disposable products
These are a good option if you don’t want to switch to reusables but would like to try a more environmentally-friendly option. You can get organic pads, tampons and panty liners which are often made of organic cotton and contain no plastic or harmful chemicals. The wrappers are also made of paper or from bio-plastic that can be put on your home compost.
Did you know that we have organic disposable products available in our toilets as part of our ongoing commitment to tackling period poverty and reducing plastic pollution?
Jane, our V P Education reflects on the work they have done around period poverty:
“Sanitary products are considered a ’luxury item’. This can make it difficult to afford or access sanitary products, and most of those affected by this are students in school and universities.
In 2019, as the Women Officer at The Students’ Union, I campaigned for free sanitary products at UWE Bristol.
After months of discussion and getting over 200 students to sign a petition to endorse the campaign, I am really happy to announce that there are free sanitary products across all Students' Union buildings at UWE Bristol. I hope to use the student usage stats from The Students’ Union to campaign for free period products in the University buildings.”
If you are struggling to afford period products our Advice Team is available to speak to on 0117 32 82676 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This is made of medical-grade silicone and is worn internally, like a tampon. The cup can be left in for up to 12 hours and is then removed and the blood emptied into the toilet. You can clean the cup with water but is it recommended that you sterilise it in boiling water between cycles.
The Students’ Union Shop sells a Lunette menstrual cup for just £9.95. This is much cheaper than buying it online as we subsidise the cost of it to make it more accessible to you.
These are made of fabric, often cotton or polyester, and clip into your underwear. Once you have used the pad, you then pop it in the washing machine ready to be cleaned and used again. If you’re worried about this, you can soak the pads in cold water before machine washing for an initial rinse. They vary in price from £10 - £35 for a set of five.
However, if you’re handy with a sewing machine and need a lockdown project, you can always try making some of these yourself as there are lots of patterns and guides online!
This is like a pair of ordinary pants but instead is made of absorbent material that is comfortable and soft. They can hold up to four tampons worth of blood and are machine washed between uses. Prices start from around £20 per pair.
While the reusable products can come with an upfront cost, buying a menstrual cup, for example, means each period costs just 20p on average. If you fancy going reusable, click here are some discount codes to help with this cost.
Tips for having a sustainable period
If you don’t fancy the sound of organic or reusable period products, there are still changes you can make to help the environment. Instead of buying tampons wrapped in plastic wrappers, you can look for ones that come in paper. To help save those turtles, you can also put your disposable products in the bin instead of flushing them. This will prevent plastic pollution in our oceans.
If you would like to find out more information about sustainable period products, City to Sea, a Bristol-based charity has a useful FAQ guide.
*All stats used in this article are from the Women's Environment Network.