We need to talk about the waste that comes with periods. TFUI Officer Margaret is on it.
Menstruation. Let’s talk about it! Women spend approximately 6.25 years of their lives menstruating. As any person in your life who gets their period can tell you, menstruating is an expensive undertaking. We women use pads, tampons, medication, heating pads, underwear, and more to deal with our monthly visitors. Not only can these supplies be costly (and difficult to access) but these products also generate a tremendous amount of waste. According to Slate, a woman, on average, generates 250 to 300 pounds of menstruation-related waste in her lifetime. The more waste is generated, the more likely it is to end up in natural environments like the ocean, possibly causing harm to sharks and other marine animals.
You’re likely aware of the common plastics found in sanitary products (pads, tampons, etc.). Many tampons have single-use, plastic applicators. Pads can be almost entirely made from plastic. Even tampons themselves can be made of plastic derivatives, like polyester, although it’s difficult to know for sure because tampon manufacturers (at least in the United States) aren’t required to disclose individual ingredients in their products. Even 100% cotton sanitary products can’t be composted because of the long time it takes for them to break down and because they may host pathogens or bacteria.
Don’t despair, fellow menstruators! There are many ways to make your period much more environmentally friendly (and possibly help your wallet, too!). Read on for suggestions for how to reduce period-related waste! As with any major lifestyle change, consult a doctor before switching up your menstrual routine.
Menstrual cups, like Diva Cup, Mooncup, and MeLuna to name a few, are reusable cups that collect blood, are rinsed, and then can be used again and again. Unlike the occasional tampon or pad, menstrual cups purportedly don’t leak. And you’ll only need to buy one instead of the thousands of tampons you would otherwise purchase!
Reusable cloth pads!
These pads are just like disposable pads except that they’re, well, reusable! After you’ve used them, rinse them with cold water and throw them in the washer! Some suggest wringing them out in a bucket of water and using that to water the garden - blood is full of nutrients that plants love. There are many cute iterations of these reusable cloth pads (like the ones here and here and even the shark ones here) and if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can even make your own!
Padkix and Thinx are two of the many manufacturers of absorbent underwear to wear while having your period. These underwear eliminate the need for tampons or pads of any kind and, like the cloth pads, can be rinsed, washed, and worn again! You can choose the absorbency level of each pair of underwear depending on how heavy or light your period tends to be.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of sustainable menstrual products. Do you have some that you like? Comment below or on this social media post! By avoiding single-use plastics and other kinds of disposables when we are dealing with our periods, we can make a difference to the health of sharks, the ocean, and humans, too! I mentioned above that lack of access to sanitary supplies is a challenge many, many women and girls face all over the planet so take the money you saved from getting rid of disposable tampons and pads and put it toward increasing women’s access to important menstruation supplies. Check out Mia Mercado’s article here to learn more! Happy (and environmentally-friendly) menstruating!
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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