Menstruation is a normal and healthy part of life yet for some reason many of us around the globe still find it a delicate topic to discuss. In certain developing countries, where menstrual products may not be readily available, menstruation remains highly stigmatized and taboo. In more Western cultures, period care products have become a part of our ‘throw-away-society’, causing thousands of kilograms of plastics to be disposed of each year.
Before getting into it further, let’s start with some quick facts to understand what role menstruation plays in a person's life:
The Plastic Period Problem
Over time, the Tampon design has developed into a veritable cornucopia of plastic. Nowadays, they come wrapped in plastic, encased in plastic applicators, with plastic strings dangling from one end, and many even include a thin layer of plastic in the absorbent section.
In developed countries like the U.S., 70% of menstruating people on average use about 240 tampons each year, or 9,600 over the course of their lifetime. In addition to this, the average menstruating person throws away between 250 to 300 pounds of “pads, plugs, and applicators” in their lifetime, that will live on for at least 500 years after their brief usefulness has passed.
Emerging Sustainability Demands & Efforts
On a more positive note, a study found that environmental and health concerns are driving menstruating people to change how they manage their periods, leading to investment in product development that responds to changing consumer demands. In an industry that is expected to reach $62.84 billion globally by 2026 (double that of 2016), this can have a huge impact.
The study illustrated that:
- 17% of menstruating people say they’ve made the switch to using non-disposable period products.
- 23% of menstruating people say they’re considering making the switch to non-disposables.
Reusable menstrual products come with significant benefits such as the fact that they are better for the environment as well as being more economical - estimations suggest that a menstruating person would only need to dispose of four small menstrual cups in their lifetime rather than 8,000 to 17,000 tampons. Reusable products might cost a little more at the beginning but the initial economic investment makes a lot more sense in the long run.
So what are some of the currently most common reusable menstrual products?
While you yourself may only have just discovered them, menstrual cups are actually not a new concept. They were first developed in the 1930s, around the same time as the tampon and are bell-shaped devices inserted into the vaginal canal to collect menstrual blood rather than absorbing it. Unfortunately however, campaigns needed to normalise their use amongst menstruating people, didn’t receive sufficient investment.
Thanks to social media and its network of advocates however, products replacing tampons are now trending and have become more normalised.
Our OrganiCup and &Sisters are award-winning menstrual cups made from soft, medical-grade silicone. The product is chemical-free and provides even better leak-protection than tampons and pads by creating a seal between the cup and vagina wall on insertion so that your flow is captured in the cup. It lasts up to 8-12 hours before needing to be emptied and comes in different sizes so that you can pick the cup that works best for your body.
What's makes OrganiCup so amazing is the important work they do with NGOs in developing countries. They empower and educate communities to change the attitude towards menstruation and introduce menstrual cups to those in need. Since working with NGOs they have donated thousands of cups worldwide.
** However if the menstrual cup just doesn't work for you and your body, don't feel bad. It's not for everyone. That's why we do offer disposable tampons, but a bit more sustainable than regulars ones. &Sisters tampons are made from 100% pure natural organic cotton fibers that paper-wrapped. No synthetics. No harmful chemicals. No perfumes.**
Reusable Cloth Pads
Just like ‘normal’ pads, these reusable pads are great for daily use dealing with discharge or to complement a menstrual cup. They differ from regular pads in that you can wash them with regular detergent afterwards and of course: reuse them. They’re designed to last at least five years if taken care of properly, which would already reduce your waste significantly.
All the cloth pads in our shop are made of 100% organic cotton. There are many different options matching your lifestyle and whatever you feel most comfortable with. None of our cloth pads have plastic backing, which means less irritation. Some have buttons whereas other ones are snap-free - well suited for an active lifestyle with a sleek and smart design that folds around the crotch of your underwear. There are also options suitable to use with thongs, and most of them come in different sizes, colors or patterns for your own pleasure and comfort!
**However if the reusable cloth pads just doesn't work for you and your body, don't feel bad. It's not for everyone. That's why we do offer disposable pads, but a bit more sustainable than regulars ones. &Sisters pads are made from biodegradable cotton pad and bio-film backing sheet and wrapper. No synthetics. No harmful chemicals. No perfumes.**
Period panties are another great option since these look and feel just like normal underwear, but they have a special layer that helps to prevent blood from seeping through, meaning you can wear them instead of a using a pad or tampon. They usually come with different absorbencies and can hold up to 5 tampons worth of blood. The moisture-wicking fabric gives you a dry and comfortable feeling by quickly absorbing blood and drying rapidly so that the fabric isn’t saturated and is leak-resistant.
We’ve been testing a number of different brands to include menstrual underwear in our online shop. Now, you can find comfortable and stylish menstrual underwear by the Dutch initiative Lotties Period in our shop. Lotties Period underwear is composed of several textile layers including sustainable materials like bamboo textile and elastane. The fabric is breathable, hypoallergenic and silky soft. We hope by including this menstrual underwear in our shop you can have a broad choice of options to make the switch to reusable menstruation products.
Here’s a summarized overview for you:
It’s up to you!
Every body and every menstruation is different, and it's is such a personal topic, that every person has to decide what is the most comfortable solution for them. While some trust their body and are comfortable with free bleeding, others don’t want to take a risk and rely on tampons and pads. Whatever your preference, it is worth exploring the various options that are out there and we would like to encourage you to give sustainable, reusable options a try.Written by Mara Nowozin
- https://sheltongrp.com/work/shelton-pulse-special-report-a-period-of-change (free copy can be downloaded)