Sustainable Menstrual Supplies

Sustainable menstrual supplies such as menstrual cups, pads, and underwear reduce waste and environmental impact.

April 5, 2023
Sustainable Menstrual Supplies

The effect of using disposable menstrual products on the environment is staggering. It is estimated that one menstruator produces almost 300 pounds of menstrual product waste in a lifetime. This waste can take years to break down, leaving a lasting impact on the environment and contributing to mass pollution and harm to the planet.

Mass pollution of plastic products affects several different aspects of the environment.The breakdown of plastics in certain habitats creates an accumulation of toxic contaminants, such as PBTs, PCBs, and pesticides. Whatever doesn’t break down into chemicals can be ingested by sea creatures and other animals, causing them to choke or eventually die from the build-up of foreign objects in their digestive systems.

So, what can be done to decrease the amount of waste that comes from using disposable menstrual products? Luckily, there are now several options for reusable menstrual products, for menstruators who are able to cut down on their menstrual waste production.

Options For Reusable Menstrual Products:
Menstrual Cups

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are small silicone cups that can be inserted into the vagina while bleeding occurs. The cup collects menstrual blood while being left in the vagina for up to4 to 12 hours. It can then be removed and emptied into a toilet or sink.

Throughout a cycle and once one is over, the menstrual cup can be cleaned by being placed in boiling water. These cups can be used for up to ten years, but they are recommended to be replaced approximately every year.

Reusable Pads

Reusable Pads

Reusable Underwear

Photo of period undies by Allure Magazine

Reusable underwear, or period underwear, is quite similar to reusable pads. This is underwear that can be purchased that has special absorbency made to catch menstrual blood. These allow one to free-bleed confidently without any worries of leaks throughout the day. They can also be cleaned by rinsing in the sink, or simply being thrown in with your laundry. They are available in all different sizes and colours, just like regular underwear.

Reusable Tampon Applicators

If you are happy with using tampons, there are options to reduce the plastic waste that comes from the applicators. The first being applicator-free tampons. These are recommended for those who are comfortable inserting their tampon themselves.

The second option is a reusable tampon applicator, which is typically made of a rubber and steel blend. These can be rinsed after use and reused countless times after that.

Whichever technique you choose, the greater impact you can have on the environment after switching to eco-friendly menstrual products will be appreciated by our planet. It may feel like a small change at the moment, but the smallest changes can sometime shave the biggest impact.

Of course, reusable menstrual products aren’t necessarily as accessible as typical menstrual products. It is more common to find reusable products online, and they are often more expensive. For individuals who rely on free tampons and pads from certain resources, the idea of paying for something that will cost them extra money is not ideal. This is an issue that can be overlooked when starting a conversation about eco-friendly products, and something that should be considered as we move toward a more sustainable future and open conversation about access to menstrual products.

That being said, we believe in the sustainability of the planet, as well as the spread of menstrual product knowledge, and encourage those who can access or afford reusables to look into them.

Original article written by: Mary Bourke on Aug 12, 2021 

Edited by: Rebecca Gouthro on July 14, 2022

Hayley Newman-Petryshen

Intersectional community builder, menstrual equity activist in Canada for 5+ years

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