Around 380 million metric tonnes of plastic are produced globally every year, and approximately 91% of it is not recycled.
In fact, virtually every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists in some shape or form.
Ahead of Plastic Free July, My Green Pod Hero WUKA, the UK’s leading reusable period underwear brand, is sharing a guide to ditching disposable period products to reduce single-use plastic waste.
‘Plastic-riddled, single-use menstrual products are used by millions of women every month, with 4.3 billion menstrual products used per year in the UK.
‘Switching to reusable period products not only reduces our environmental impact – just one pair of fully leak-proof period pants can save 200 single-use plastic-riddled disposables from going to landfill or polluting our oceans – but also helps the menstruating population go more comfortably and confidently about their day-to-day lives.
‘Whilst we’ve happily embraced reusable water bottles, coffee cups, tote bags and nappies, there is understandably more hesitancy, and at times fear, over the switch to reusable period products. This is undoubtedly due to lack of understanding about how – and how well – the different reusable products work, but rest assured; reusable period products work in very similar, if not the same ways as their single-use counterparts.
‘Plastic Free July is the perfect opportunity to embrace change and try more environmentally friendly, reusable menstrual products.’
CEO and co-founder of WUKA
Here’s Ruby’s guide to ditching disposables and embracing a plastic-free period.
In a WUKA study, 42% of women admitted that knowing about the environmental consequences of disposable period products has made them consider switching to reusable options, with more than half (53%) interested in learning more about the environmental impact of single-use products.
Yet while reusable period products are steadily growing in popularity, the research shows that 67% of women still use single-use period products every month.
Changing the habit of a lifetime doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth considering the benefits of ditching single-use plastic period products not just on the environment, but also on your pocket.
While reusables are often a bigger initial investment, they do present real savings.
For example, the average woman who gets her period for 40 years will spend around £1,964.33 on tampons vs £1,290.00 if they opt to use reusable period pants instead.
Organic tampons + reusable applicator
Organic cotton tampons are an easy switch, and undoubtedly less harmful to the environment than their plastic-riddled counterparts.
But it’s worth noting that with this option you are still contributing to landfill waste; the reusable applicators can last around 10 years if well cared for but tend to be made from plastic.
A menstrual sponge is a sea sponge – an aquatic organism that attaches to underwater surfaces and continuously filters sea water to support their organic functions.
Incredibly absorbent, sea sponges can be used similarly to a tampon.
After use they just need to be rinsed and can be reused for six to 12 months.
Menstrual cup or disc
A small, flexible cup or disc made from silicone or latex rubber that, rather than absorbing period blood, catches and collects it.
One of the benefits of a menstrual cup vs a tampon is that it can stay in for longer – up to 12 hours vs four to eight.
Similar to their single-use counterparts, reusable period pads can be easily attached to your regular underwear. They are made up of layers of absorbent fabric and after use simply need to be rinsed with water before being washed more thoroughly when convenient.
Reusable period pads can be used either as your primary period product or as a back-up to catch any leaks associated with using organic tampons, menstrual cups or discs.
Labia pads act as a back-up when using a menstrual pad, preventing leaks by guiding menstrual blood and discharge into a cloth period pad.
Typically made from cotton, they simply fold in half and are positioned between your labia, close to the entrance of your vagina.
Leak-proof period pants are one of the easiest and comfiest period product switches.
The multi-layered gusset in period pants works to absorb and lock-in blood, while the outer, moisture-wicking layers keep you feeling secure and dry.
Depending on your flow, you can opt for different absorbencies of pant. Plus, if you’re heading on holiday, you can try period swimwear; it works in exactly the same way, allowing you to enjoy a sunshine swim.
While a larger initial investment, period pants can last around two years if well looked after offering real value for money.
One of the biggest barriers to switching to reusable period products is undoubtedly the fear and lack of understanding as to how exactly they work.
Knowledge is power, so research the different options, try them out, work out what’s best or most comfortable for you and trust that reusable period products really do work.
It’s also worth considering that a number of factors contribute to a product’s environmental footprint – manufacturing processes, materials, shipping, recycling commitments and carbon offset initiatives.
So while reusable products are always a better option than their single-use, plastic-filled counterparts, not all reusable products are created equal. Make sure to check out a brand’s sustainability credentials before purchasing.