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Sustainable Period Products: Turn Your Vag Into an Eco-Warrior

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Sustainable Period Products: Turn Your Vag Into an Eco-Warrior

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Did you know that a woman menstruates for an average of 2,535 days in her lifetime? That’s almost 7 years’ worth of blood, cramps, and digging around in your handbag to find that last tampon you thought you had.

In the UK alone, tampons and other single-use period products, account for more than 200,000 tonnes of waste every single year…that’s equivalent to 1,000 female blue whales!

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

As if period pain and discomfort weren’t enough, we have the burden of unsustainable menstrual products to carry on our shoulders as well – all 200,000 tonnes of it.

But hey, it’s not all bad news…

Menstrual brands appear to be waking up to the issue of period waste and we’re now witnessing the rise of sustainable period products for eco-friendly vaginas in 2021!

We are on a mission to provide you with the most up-to-date and extensive vegan and sustainable period product guide. Just like our vaginas, there’s a wide range on offer, including washable pads and period underwear, silicone dams, reusable applicators, and pads/tampons made using eco-friendly materials! 

Period innovation is steadily flowing and new products are brought to market all the time, so if you think we are missing something from this guide then drop us a message.

Sustainable Periods

Are tampons sustainable?

From plastic packaging to the applicators, pull-out strings, and even synthetic absorbency strips, many tampons are a cornucopia of plastic, so they’re not particularly sustainable.

Fortunately, not all tampons were made equal and some of these period products are more sustainable than others. For example, a number of tampons are now made with eco-friendly materials such as bamboo and organic cotton.

Nevertheless, what all single-use period products have in common is disposability.

Reducing our period waste altogether is even more sustainable than using eco-friendly single-use tampons.

How can you be eco-friendly on your period?

There are lots of things you can do to have a more eco-friendly period! Here are our top 5 suggestions:

  1. If you choose to buy single-use period products, buy plastic-free and organic (scroll down for our sustainable materials section).
  2. Don’t flush your period waste down the loo! Otherwise, your period products might end up in the ocean and damage marine life.
  3. Switch to sustainable period products, such as reusable pads, menstrual dams/cups, and period underwear (see below).
  4. Donate to charities such as Bloody Good Period, Freedom4Girls, Binti, and Period.
  5. Spread the word! Let’s normalise having conversations about periods. Period.

Are plastic tampon applicators recyclable?

Unfortunately, although many plastic tampon applicators are technically recyclable, most recycling plants will not accept them due to hygiene concerns.

Moreover, if the applicators are mixed with other plastic products, you risk having the entire collection of recyclables being refused due to potential contamination.

Consequently, most plastic tampon applicators will not be recycled.

Unsustainable materials

A single pack of menstrual pads contains approximately 5 plastic bags worth of plastic. Considering the vagina is the second most absorbent part of the body, that makes us feel pretty uncomfortable…not to mention the fact that single-use plastic is an unsustainable material.

And plastic is not the only undesirable used in period products. Some materials have found their way into sanitary items because of their convenience whilst others sneak in accidentally due to the way some of the materials are processed (e.g. pesticides used to grow cotton or dioxins as a result of the bleaching process).

The worst part? Period product brands don’t have to disclose all of the ingredients used to make their pads and tampons!

Here’s a list of some of the commonly-used unsustainable materials found in pads and tampons:

Polypropylene
Polyethylene
Bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS)
Fragrance chemicals
Toxic dyes
Conventional cotton
Pesticides
Dioxin
Chlorine
Rayon

pexels arthouse studio 4310201 Sustainable Period Products: Turn Your Vag Into an Eco-Warrior

Sustainable materials

Nowadays, there are plenty of incredible sustainable period products that are free from questionable materials such as chlorine bleach, dyes, fragrances, and insecticide residues.

Here is our ever-growing list of sustainable materials used to make eco-friendly sanitary products:

Organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp pads & tampons
Cardboard, sugarcane, Mediprene® applicators
Wood pulp, paper, water-soluble, compostable wrappers
Reusable medical-grade polymer or silicone cups/dams
Recycled/eco-friendly fabrics such as Tencel Modal (made from beech trees) and recycled nylon (made from ocean waste)

What sustainable period products are there?

Menstrual cups

A woman holding a menstrual cup with flowers in it

Menstrual cups fit in the vaginal canal where they sit and catch the crimson flow.

They have a handy stem for easy removal but you can trim this back or cut it off altogether if you so desire. The rim creates suction, which can be released by pinching the base as you remove it.

Menstrual cups come in different sizes to suit a variety of wombs. They are also reusable and therefore one of the more sustainable period products on the market.

Discover the best menstrual cups.

Period Underwear

The bottom half of a woman wearing period underwear and holding flowers

Say goodbye to those irritating wings that snag your pubes and eliminate the fear that your pad will migrate up your ass crack cos period underwear are here to save the day!

These babies come in all shapes, sizes, and colours and can be washed and reused for many periods to come.

Several brands are making their period undies using sustainable fibres and some even donate to period poverty charities.

Discover our favourite vegan period pants

Organic Tampons & Pads

Organic tampons and sanitary pad on a tray

Enjoy the comfort and convenience of disposable period products? No problem, there are sustainable options.

Single-use sanitary tampons and pads are pretty darn useful after all!

They’re nice and discreet, great for popping in your handbag just in case.

What’s more, they save you the job of aftercare (e.g. washing and drying them), perfect for the busy woman.

Eco-Friendly Tampon Applicator

A reusable applicator for sustainable tampons

From sugarcane to cardboard, brands are using all sorts of sustainable plant-based materials to make their biodegradable tampon applicators nowadays.

Moreover, some companies have started to sell reusable applicators that are easy to clean and built for life.

Washable Pads

2 white and orange sustainable sanitary pads

Similar to period underwear, reusable sanitary pads can be washed and dried to help you experience sustainable periods.

If you prefer the security of wings, pick a product with snap fasteners so you can fix the pad around your knickers.

Menstrual Dams/Discs

An illustration demonstrating the positioning of a menstrual disc behind the pubic bone inside the vagina
Picture Source: Irene Lee, Healthline

These sustainable period products can seem a bit daunting at first. A seemingly large flexible disc with a squishable bowl to hold the period blood, menstrual dams (or discs) remind us of china teacups.

In contrast to cups, dams sit lengthwise to fit into the vaginal fornix behind the cervix. They are then tucked behind the pubic bone to completely block the flow of blood.

What does this mean?

It means they can be worn during sex – yippee! Now we can orgasm our way out of period cramps without the mess…unless you like the mess of course!

Alice Johnson

Alice Johnson

The older and nerdier half of the Vegan Sisters. A plant-based microbiologist, fungi enthusiast & freelance writer at Alice's Cerebrum. Can currently be found lifting weights and walking dogs up north!

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