The microbeads ban and the introduction of free water refill points around the country are helping us make significant strides towards reducing our sizeable plastic footprint. Scrubs and plastic bottles have shared their fair brunt of the blame, but what about sanitary products? The average menstrual pad contains as much plastic as four carrier bags* and it’s estimated that around 7 billion plastic tampon applicators are thrown away every year globally** - they’re shocking stats and considering that a woman menstruates for about 40 years of her life (which roughly equates to a usage of around 11,000 tampons), it seems our monthly bleeds could definitely benefit from going green for the good of the environment and our bank accounts too.
The availability of eco-friendlier products on our supermarket shelves leaves much to be desired. The marked absence of reusables is something that hasn’t escaped our notice. It’s still a niche category despite the increased attention plastic pollution has received as of late. However, more brands are taking note and launching products to meet the growing demand for more environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Ranging from reusable tampon applicators to period pants and menstrual cups, they can take a bit of getting used to however, knowing that they’ll help reduce the amount of plastic that makes its way into our oceans and that some could save you money in the long run too will certainly make the prospect of ditching your single-use pads and applicators all the more appealing.
Here are the reusable and eco-friendlier sanitary products that are making their mark. Even Mother Nature would be happy to give them a go.
One Saalt menstrual cup lasts for ten years, the equivalent of over 100,000 single-use period products. They're made from medical grade silicone and come in small and medium sizes for different flows. It has multiple seal spots so you don't need to worry about leakage and there are several ways to insert so you can find the most comfortable for you.
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Going one step further than eradicating plastic applicators, these 100 per cent pure natural organic cotton fibre tampons are wrapped in recycled paper rather than plastic for a truly sustainable period option.
Dame D, from £17
A British start-up, organic tampon company Dame’s key aims are a) to address the amount of plastic waste the industry produces and b) to create stylish, practical products that show that periods are not something to be hidden or embarrassed about - two objectives reflected brilliantly by the brand’s new launch, a reusable, self-cleaning tampon applicator.
Made of medical grade mediprene with antimicrobial tech to keep it hygienic, it’s BPA-free, designed to fit every size of tampon and is also heat resistant to allow for easy sterilisation too. It also comes with some handy extras to keep it clean, amply filled and travel friendly - a pouch, a tin and a pack of Dame organic cotton tampons.
Thinx Period pants, from £24
Periods are often pants’ worst enemy however, these innovative reusable undergarments from across the pond help make the relationship that little less acrimonious. With 4-layer tech to help keep leaks minimal and a range of styles to choose from to best suit your activity, they aim to merge function with fashion.
They’re antimicrobial and moisture-wicking and their silky material (I tried the Hip Hugger style pictured) makes them feel like a luxurious piece of underwear rather than what some might assume is a giant nappy. They're best suited for nights when your flow is a little lighter. They can be a little cumbersome washing and hang-drying though - it would be good to see multipacks available for the price.
MORE GLOSS: Plastic packaging - how beauty brands are stepping up for the planet
Intimina Lily Cup One, £19.99
Lightweight, compact and designed to fold as thin as a tampon and sit in a similar position to collect blood rather than absorb it, the Lily Cup is built for comfort and convenience. Made from medical-grade silicone and designed to fit any body shape, it can be washed by hand and discreetly packed into its storage case for on the go practicality.
Buy online .
No More Taboo Washable Pads, from £16
These reusable pads carry the City to Sea seal of approval and last up to three years. Available in a range of different absorbancies and sizes, they work in the same way as disposable sanitary towels but instead of throwing them in the bin, you wash them. This involves soaking them in cold water first and then hand washing them or putting them in your washing machine either on their own or with the rest of your laundry. Made up of several absorbent layers (ranging from fleece to organic cotton, bamboo fibre to towelling), and containing a breathable layer underneath, there's a fit for a variety of different flows.
Buy online .
WUKA Period Panties, £24.99
Designed to hold up to four tampons worth of blood (20ml), these soft and stretchy period pants use a combination of absorbent layers of fabric and moisture wicking and antibacterial tech to provide peace of mind against leaks. They can be machine or hand washed and average customer feedback suggests that they protect for a surprisingly long time - up to eight hours on light days and four to six hours on heavy days.
Flo Tampons, £3.95 for a pack of 16
Made from 100 per cent certified organic cotton with compact applicators that are BPA-free, these eco-friendlier tampons look and do good. And for extra choice, the brand is also about to introduce a range of bamboo pads to their portfolio which come individually wrapped in zero-plastic bio-wrappers.
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* City to Sea