Plastic Free Periods
Regular tampons and sanitary napkins produce more than 200,000 tonnes of waste a year, “I don’t want plastic near my knicker elastic,” says Ella Daish.
Her video campaign #EndPeriodPlastic has gathered more than 100,000 signatures since September 2018, shows the British environmental activist revealing some frightening figures. “We use a sanitary pad for four to eight hours, but they take 500 years to disintegrate. That means if Jane Austen had used them, they would still have been decomposing today,” continues Daish in the video. “I am campaigning to make all period products plastic-free.”
Daish is not alone in voicing this concern. Slowly, but surely, it is becoming common knowledge that a regular sanitary pad has numerous harmful chemicals, with 90% of its components being plastic. “The amount of plastic in a pad equals to almost four carrier bags,” says Sophie Hellyer, an Irish environmentalist and TEDx speaker. A former English and British Champion surfer, her involvement in numerous beach cleaning campaigns exposed her to the rampant pollution caused by used sanitary napkins and tampons found on the shores. “In the U.K. itself, 3.4 million tampons and 2.4 million pads get flushed down every day,” continues Hellyer. “I saw tampon applicators littered on the beach in the Maldives. I have been conscious of my plastic consumption for years, and almost three years back, I switched to cups.”
Mooncup, the world’s first reusable silicone menstrual cup, founded by entrepreneurs Su Hardy and Eileen Greene, first made an appearance in 2002 and since then has been sold in 50 countries. Contrary to sanitary pads, instead of absorbing the menstrual fluid, moon cups collect it, once inserted inside a woman’s vagina. Costing £22, and re-usable up to ten years, a moon cup is not only environment-friendly but can help its user save a lot of money.
“I remember the frustration when I couldn’t get the cup inside in a proper way for 20 minutes every time in the first few days and was about to cry and grab a tampon,” reveals Nastia Nizalova, a sustainability blogger from the Netherlands. Other than adapting to an unfamiliar sanitary product, there’s also the taboo about menstruation itself.
“With reusable period products, women often feel unhygienic and too exposed to the reality of their body,” elaborates Nizalova. “It is much easier to shove something up your vagina or stick something to your underwear and then throw it away like it never happened. Using a cup or reusable pads requires you to be more aware of your body, how much you bleed, etc. For some people that can be too uncomfortable.”
The cultural indoctrination around a common, natural process doesn’t help either. “A period must be concealed. We have all been in the position of quickly grabbing a tampon from our bag and hiding it while we walk to the toilet. Why?” asks Nizalova. “Reusable products force you to stop and say: ‘Yes, I am on my period’.
As for the ‘unsanitary’ aspect, I just have one thing to ask, ‘how sanitary is it for your blood to be sitting there without any airflow?’ Because that’s what happens with regular pads and tampons.” For women who consider menstrual cups to be too bold a choice, period pants can be a suitable alternative. Pioneered by Thinx, a New York-based company and founder of the ‘world’s first period-proof underwear’, period pants could be substituted for regular lingerie during menstruation.
Thinx creates boy shorts and hipster briefs in organic cotton that can help women reduce their period wastes by almost 135 kilos.
And exactly like moon cups, period pants remain drastically economic. “The average woman spends up to £230 a year on feminine hygiene products, which equates to eight pairs of Thinx,” explained Maria Molland Selby, the CEO of Thinx. “Considering they can last up to two years and can be worn any time of the month, they are a cost-effective option.”
With so many sustainable alternatives easily available in the market, women need to let go of convenience to opt for conscious consumerism. The time has come to go plastic-free. Period.
Article by Meghna Sarkar from Forbes.