This blog was updated 30/9/21
There are many types of sustainable menstrual products, ranging from menstrual cups to reusable pads and period underwear, all with their own pros and cons. But for someone who menstruates, sustainability can actually be quite a confronting concept - having to learn about new types of products and dealing with their higher upfront expense, while also keeping in mind the many benefits. This all wages the question - Is changing the way we tackle our periods really worth it for the sake of sustainability?
The answer to that is yes. And here’s why switching to a low-waste period is right for you, and the environment.
According to Sustainable Menstruation Australia, the average Australian menstruating person uses approximately 12,000 pads and tampons in their reproductive lifetime (ages 12-52), which translates to around 120kg of sanitary waste that has to go to landfill, per person. Annually, period products total to about 18 thousand metric tonnes sent to landfill and they take up to 500-800 years to degrade. On the other hand, a product made of silicone, like DivaCup’s menstrual cup (available on Sustainable Marketplace!) can be used for up to one year, after which it can be cut into smaller pieces and disposed of in general waste. And while there aren’t many silicone recycling facilities in Australia, silicone starts as sand and degrades quite well over time, so used menstrual cups do eventually break down – much better than your standard pad or tampon.
Many feel hesitant to buy a menstrual cup because of their purchase price, which at first glance appears much higher than a pack of pads or tampons. But don’t be fooled by the initial expense. According to a poll conducted by Swedish brand Intimina, the average person spends just under AUD $20 on sanitary products each month, which works out to be about $240 per year (or $9,400 over the course of a reproductive lifetime), while the initial expense of a DivaCup plus DivaCup Wash is around $70 – a yearly saving of up to $160!
So now that we’ve got some of the numbers and statistics out of the way, let’s discuss the benefits of using a menstrual cup. As someone who has been using a menstrual cup for a couple of years now, I can safely say that I will never be going back to pads and tampons. I have converted many friends to the cause and here are my top five reasons why you should find out if menstrual cups are for you, too:
It cuts down SO MUCH WASTE! Not only will you notice that you have to do less clean up, Mother Nature will notice too, and she will be so, so grateful!
You can use it overnight! This was my favourite discovery when researching my first menstrual cup. After testing it out myself I can only report 100% leak free nights!
You can still exercise while using it! I’ve tested mine out on runs, swimming and doing yoga and have faced no issues.
Because menstrual cups collect, rather than absorb menstrual blood, you aren’t at risk of getting TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome).
You only have to empty it every 8 hours! If you’re familiar with having to plan your bathroom breaks to change your pad and tampon and you worry about leaks when you can’t, then let me tell you: a menstrual cup will eliminate the majority of these bathroom breaks!
However, it should be noted that not everyone is comfortable using something internal like a menstrual cup. If this is you, don’t worry! There are many options for sustainable menstrual products for you, including period underwear and reusable pads.
Period underwear is super-absorbent underwear that works similarly to a pad without the clunky feel. They are able to be soaked or rinsed after use, put in the wash and reused. While Sustainable Marketplace hasn’t yet recruited a brand of period underwear, you may have seen them at ModiBodi, Love Luna and Bonds. Period underwear is designed to replace pads with varying levels of absorption for every day of your period, including light, moderate and heavy.
If you want to do more research before you buy, we can happily refer you to a recent test done by Choice. They trialled ten types of period underwear to find out which were best for absorbency, comfort and more. Read their findings in the test results here.
Reusable pads are also designed to replace your everyday, single-use pads. They too, can be soaked or rinsed, washed and reused. If you are someone with a particularly heavy flow, these can be replaced throughout the day to prevent leaks. You can find them on sites like Eco Ladies and EcoPads Australia. Etsy is also a great source for reusable pads, which are often handmade with scrap fabrics.
So summing up:
I know that trying new menstrual products can be scary, and they may even take a little getting used to, but if you were to take anything away from this blog post, let it be this: once you try sustainable period products, you won’t be tempted to go back and Mother Earth will be much, much healthier for it.
Meanwhile we're working very hard to add reusable pads and reusable underwear to the marketplace. Keep your eye out!