As the earth continues to heat, wildfires blaze through Northern California and sea creatures die as a result of plastic pollution, we’ve all become more environmentally aware and many of us have taken steps to reduce our impact on the planet. With the ready availability of earth-friendly products like reusable shopping bags and paper straws, going plastic free should be simple – but did you know plastic could be hiding in your everyday period products? The average woman uses nearly 11,000 disposable period products in her lifetime, taking up space in landfills or leaching microplastics into our oceans. You may be thinking, ‘there has to be a better way!’ and lucky for menstruating women everywhere, there is. Just like the rest of your household items, your periods, too, can be free from all things plastic.
What’s hiding in your period products
Have you ever used a period pad before? If you’re a menstruating woman, chances are the answer is yes. That fluffy, white, cotton-like pad that many of us wear without much consideration isn’t actually cotton – some supermarket pads are composed of up to 90% plastic, and just one box of menstrual pads contains as much plastic as five plastic carrier bags.
The same goes for tampons. While tampons typically contain less plastic than pads, they’re still far from plastic free. The average tampon contains around 10% plastic, and with flushing being a common (although incorrect) disposal method, this plastic ends up in our sewage systems, waterways – or worse – in the insides of our aquatic wildlife.
The impact of plastic on our planet
With a jaw-dropping 4.3 million disposable menstrual products being used in the UK annually, the impact of plastic on our planet continues to grow. As most menstrual pads and tampons are made using plastic fibres, they cannot easily biodegrade in landfills and just one pad or tampon can take up to 500 years to completely decompose.
The reality is, however, that many of the menstrual products used in the UK don’t end up in landfills. Instead, 3.9 million of the total 4.3 million disposable menstrual products are flushed down the loo each year – not only does this contribute to sewage problems (does anyone else remember the 130,000 kg ‘fatberg’ that plugged the London sewage system in 2017?), but modern sewage systems aren’t equipped to clear menstrual waste, meaning much of it ends up in our oceans and other waterways.
If you’ve ever spent a day litter picking on one of England’s many beaches, chances are that you’ve come across a bit of menstrual waste. In fact, menstrual products are the fifth most common item found on our shores, making menstrual waste a more common beach find than plastic cutlery, straws or coffee lids. Even the litter that stays in our ocean eventually breaks down into microplastics that are ingested by wildlife, eventually being passed on to the animals (and humans) who eat them. And if that doesn’t worry you, this might: plastic litter kills over a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals each year (and this doesn’t even include the ocean’s fish).
Why plastic-free is better for your body
Those supermarket pads and tampons may look innocent, but their cotton-like appearance is deceiving. While they may contain some non-organic cotton, they also contain rayon, plastic and other synthetic materials. These products have been found to contain toxic chemicals like BPA, BPS and chlorine, which can enter a woman’s bloodstream over time. Although the amount of these chemicals in each menstrual product may seem small, the cumulative effect of exposure to these substances has been linked to chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Even cotton itself, when it isn’t grown and processed organically, contains pesticides, insecticides and bleaches that can harm a woman’s reproductive and holistic health.
Organic cotton, on the other hand, is free from all things artificial. Organic cotton is a 100% natural, plant-based, pH-neutral substance that both gynaecologists and environmentalists know is better for your body and the planet. Not only is organic cotton a gentle, natural choice for the vagina, it’s also completely compostable, taking only 2 years to completely biodegrade.
How to make every period a #plasticfreeperiod
If your period wasn’t plastic free before, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that you never use or dispose of a plastic period product again. Instead of using plastic applicator tampons, switch to cardboard applicators and instead of using chemical-laden supermarket pads, tampons and liners, reach instead for 100% organic cotton period products to ensure the best for your body and the earth. Our &SISTERS naked tampons, eco-app tampons, pads with wings and liners are all made using Soil Association certified 100% organic cotton, and even our eco-app tampons are made using a fully biodegradable cardboard applicator.
To avoid period waste altogether, give our nüdie period cup a try. The nüdie, made with hypoallergenic medical-grade silicone, is a reusable alternative to traditional period care products that collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. Not only does the nüdie keep your vaginal flora in balance, but it holds more menstrual fluid than up to three tampons and can be reused for up to 10 years, saving you (and the planet) nearly 2,000 disposable period products.
Is your period plastic free? Shop &SISTERS plastic free period products here.