How to have a zero waste period

You may not think that periods have much of an effect on the environment. But have a read of the following facts and find out just how much of an impact those of us who have periods are having..

Here are the facts

  • Virtually ALL disposable tampons and sanitary pads contain plastic. Not just on the applicators or the packaging, but it’s woven into the actual products themselves.
  • Just 1 box of sanitary pads can contain as much plastic as 5 carrier bags
  • Over 4.3 billion disposable sanitary products are used every year (just in the UK!)
  • Over 50% of the women using these disposable products in the UK flush their tampons and pads down the toilet.
  • Approximately 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet every year, just in the UK.

So, still think periods aren’t a big environmental issue?

If you weren’t aware of any of this, don’t worry, you’re not alone – 2 years ago, I was exactly the same.

I had no idea that my period products contained plastic or how much of a negative impact they were having.

I was also one of the 50% of women who would flush their tampons down the toilet…

I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong… I thought they were made of cotton and would just break down on their way to the sewage plant.

I was SO wrong.

I hate knowing now that I was adding so much to ocean pollution.

But! I’ve changed my ways for the better and have gone zero waste on my periods!

I’ve been using a menstrual cup for the last 2 years and most recently I’ve started to use washable pads as well and I bloody love it!

No plastic, no waste, perfect!

How I started my zero waste period journey

That’s me! On my period, on holiday – waste free!

It was a close friend who convinced me to try using a menstrual cup.

Since I tried the menstural cup I’ve never looked back. It’s changed my period experience for the better and I love it.

So, I’ll set the scene.

I was at a friend’s house and we’d had a few glasses of wine when we got talking about periods.

Not your usual topic of conversation, granted.

She told me how she has used a Mooncup for a few years and went on to say how comfortable it was, how easy and clean it was to use and just how much better than disposables it really was.

She answered all of the intimate questions I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to ask when sober – damn you period taboo from holding me back all those years!

So eventually, after a lot of quizzing, I was convinced to buy one. And buy one I did, wine fuelled and filled with equal levels of excitement and nerves.

Going reusable has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my periods and my body.

They are now more comfortable, I’m never caught short (no more pancakes loo roll stuffing in public toilets!) and I’ve saved a lot of money from not having to buy disposables.

There’s more out there than just menstrual cups and they’ve all got their plus points. So I’ll run though the different types of products you can use to have a zero waste period!

Zero waste period products

Reusable Pads

Precious Stars reusable pad

Reusable pads work in pretty much the exact same way as disposable pads.

The only difference being they are not thrown away after each use.

They are made out of a few different layers of fabric that absorb your period blood while keeping the top fabric dry and not letting any blood seep through to your pants.

They can hold just as much if not more than a disposable pad. I usually leave mine in all day (10 hours or so) before changing.

When you want to change your pad over you just give it a good rinse under cold water and squeeze it until the water runs clear then just pop it in the wash. The cold water rinse helps to prevent any blood stains.

You can get them in different shapes, styles and designs. There are loads of brands out there to choose from, so have a google!

I use Precious Stars pads and love them. They vary in price from a few pounds each to £15 but they will last for years and years if you take good care of them.

Period pants

Thinx period thong

I’ve not tried using these yet, but I am planning on investing in a pair that I can use on days when I’m really light or when I just can’t be arsed!

Period pants are basically a super absorbent pad built into a pair of pants. They can hold up to two super tampons worth of blood in one pair.

You don’t have to change them through out the day, just wear them like normal pants. Sounds like the dream.

You wash them in the same way as the reusable pads. Just rinse them under cold water until it runs clear and pop them in the wash as normal.

There are different styles of period pants including a thong!

Menstrual Cup

My Mooncup

Last but not least, my favourite of the zero waste period products! The menstrual cup.

The cup works in a slightly different way to all of the other reusable and disposable period products. Instead of absorbing your period blood, it catches it in the cup and you simply poor the blood away down the toilet when emptying.

There are a few different ways of inserting your cup (see a list of ways here). Once it’s inserted, the cup sits at the bottom of your vagina, lower than a tampon, and pushes against the walls of your vagina, creating a seal where the period blood is caught.

You can leave your cup in for up to 12 hours so if you put it in in the morning at home, you won’t have to change it until the evening! Winner!

When you change it I just give it a quick rinse under the tap before reinserting. If I do need to empty my cup when I’m out I either make sure my water bottle is with me so I can rise it down the loo, or just give it a quick wipe with some toilet paper. Easy.

Menstrual cups tend to cost around £20 ish but can last up to 10 years if you take care of it.

Other ways to reduce the environmental impact of your period

If reusable isn’t for you, there are still ways you can reduce your impact on the environment with your period.

1) Bin it

Do not flush any period products down the loo, ever. Make sure you pop your pads or tampons in the bin. Some people find having a small lined bin just for your period products in the bathroom helps when living in a shared house.

2) Go organic

There are several brands out there now that make plastic free disposable period products. They are made from natural materials including sustainable sourced cotton.

Organic cotton used less water, no pesticides and is generally better for the workers and the environment.

Unlike conventional period products they don’t contain any plastic, bleaches, “fragrance” or other nasty chemicals.

Here are a few brands that are plastic-free. Organic Mondays, Ohne & TOMT.

I know I haven’t covered every aspect of having a zero waste period, but just wanted to give you all the basic knowledge of what’s out there and what you can change to.

If there’s anything you’ve got a question about or just want some advice, get in touch via the comments below, social media or via email. I’ll try my best to answer your questions!

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration on where to go next when it comes to starting your very own zero waste period journey.

Thanks for reading,

Emilie x

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