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Conventional period products harbour a dirty secret. Did you know that the average sanitary towel is 90% plastic? This equates to the plastic equivalent of a shocking five plastic bags per packet of sanitary towels. If you consider that the average person who has a period uses over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime, then this adds up to a whole lot of plastic. Many of these products wrongly get flushed down the toilet and end up damaging our oceans and the creatures that inhabit our seas.
When it comes to tampons, it also turns out that even ‘plant-based’ applicators, often sold by organic brands are not actually biodegradable, and therefore act exactly the same as regular oil-based plastics would after use.
What’s more, most conventional period products are packed with chemicals and fragrances that are also unkind to our skin, especially in the most sensitive areas.
With all of these issues, it’s understandable and also great news that interest in eco-friendly period products is growing. I’m personally a big fan of reusable period products – I’ve written before about eco-friendly period options, and encourage the use of reusables where possible. However, I’m also painfully aware that many reusable period options are not accessible to all – through cost aspects, limited sizing, lack of washing facilities, and through mobility and/or dexterity impairments.
Today I wanted to look at some of the accessibility problems of the most common reusable period protection options, before looking at what you can do if reusable options aren’t accessible to you, but you are still concerned about the environment.
The Accessibility Issue When It Comes to Reusable Period Protection
Menstrual cups aren’t suitable for everyone – particularly those with motor-skills impairment, as insertion and removal can be tricky. At around £20+ per cup, a cup can be a steep upfront investment for some, particularly if there is more than one householder requiring a cup.
Cleaning can be tricky – many people aren’t comfortable washing out their cups in public bathrooms. In order to keep your cup hygienic, you also have to boil it every month. This could be tricky in a shared household, let alone for those who don’t have access to basic facilities.
Cloth Sanitary Towels
Having a cloth sanitary towel stash can be expensive, with pads varying between around £5 and £12 per pad. I personally find having around 8 pads to be the optimum amount of pads required to comfortably see you through a cycle, and that upfront investment can be prohibitive.
Period pants are expensive. At around £30 a pair, the initial investment in purchasing multiple pairs could be cost-prohibitive. Price aside, period pants are available in limited styles, colours, and crucially limited sizes. Whilst new options and sizes are arriving as period pants are catching on, it’s still limited in comparison to standard underwear.
And moving away from price – having to change your pants in public toilets can also be problematic, particularly for those with reduced mobility levels. Remember you will have to remove your trousers/tights and shoes to be able to remove your pants, before getting dressed again in a small cubicle.
What If Reusable Period Options Are Inaccessible to Me?
If reusable period options aren’t accessible to you for whatever reason, then be assured that eco-friendly disposable period products (that aren’t greenwashing you) do exist! A good environmentally friendly option would be to choose a disposable brand that is certified organic, vegan, plastic-free and compostable, like Natracare.
Natracare’s period products are all plastic, perfume, dye, pesticide, and chlorine-free. Made from soft, breathable, natural materials, their pads, liners, and tampons are kind to you and kind to the environment. What’s more, their products are not tested on animals either for extra peace of mind.
Natracare is widely available on Amazon, Ocado, Waitrose, and in health food shops. Expecting to pay more for their products compared to their plastic counterparts? You’d be wrong: Natracare’s prices are comparable with big-name sanitary protection brands, with a box of 14 sanitary towels costing around £2.
The only plastic I could find was on the plastic wrapping of Natracare’s non-applicator tampons. I asked Natracare and they told me this is made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic. They use this to meet legal requirements as tampons are considered a medical device. Some other brands have begun switching to paper wrappings, but until Natracare are confident this is a safe and more sustainable option, they will keep using their current packaging.
I personally tested a few different products from the Natracare range out – their ultra super period pads and curved panty liners – and found their period products very comfortable and highly absorbent.2 Crucially they stayed in place too, which is always very important!
Beyond the basics, I felt reassured by the fact that Natracare’s products contain no nasties, such as chlorine and perfumes, in the very place where you don’t want anything nasty. The lack of plastic is a huge plus point too. Don’t just take my word for it – Ethical Consumer also recommend Natracare in the disposable tampons and pads category. Definitely one to check out!