2023 Litter Report coming soon

How to have your period plastic free

Did you know that 48% of women in the UK feel embarrassed about their periods? We say own it! Let’s talk.

Did you know that a conventional box of menstrual products, like sanitary pads, contain the same amount of plastic as five plastic bags? Right now 800 million people are menstruating. This is a huge opportunity to refuse and reduce the impact of single use plastics.  

You can have your period without plastic. There are lots of easy swaps that women across the world are making that are better for your body, bank account and the planet. From menstrual cups to reusable pads, period pants or plastic-free disposable products, there are so many options out there, and one of them can suit you.


Menstrual cup

This isn’t scary or messy – it is actually a very clean and comfortable way to have your period! A reusable menstrual cup is a soft, small cup you insert, remove, empty and re-insert. Once inside you won’t even feel it! These can last for years, saving you a lot of money in the process. 

You can buy menstrual cups from lots of online stores, zero waste or wholefood shops and even some supermarkets now. Brands include Mooncup, OrganiCup, Lily Cup, Tampax… 

Worried about leakage? Doing exercise? Losing the cup? For great tips and advice on using cups, there are lots of blogs, videos or forums providing advice on which cups are best for your body shape, how to use them, clean them etc. Check out https://www.citytosea.org.uk/plasticfreeperiods-2/faq/ for all cup-related info you could ever want.

Reusable pads

These are soft, material pads that you wash after use. They come in all sort of patterns and styles and can last up to 10 years. These function exactly as you imagine, and often come with little bags to stash the pad when you are out and about.

There are many, many options out there for reusable pads, and you can even make your own. To make pads work for your period, you’ll need multiple to get you through the week (they need to be washed after each use). Most starter packs will include three pads – imagine only using 3 pads instead of a whole plastic pack every month!

Image: Re-usable pads from Bloom & Nora

Period pants

Wear your pants with plastic-free pride! Period pants are absorbent underwear that you can wash and re-wear, a bit like the reusable pads but in knicker version. You can get them in different styles, absorbency levels, or with inserts that you can change like you would a pad. 

Disposable, but ‘eco’

Plastic free pads and tampons do exist, such as 100% cotton products. Companies like Natracare and TOTM produce compostable and biodegradble products with natural materials that will break down at a faster rate than plastic-containing products. It should be kept in mind that single-use disposable products, whatever material they are made of, use valuable natural resources and contribute to the production of greenhouse gases when such ‘bio-waste’ breaks down in landfill. 

We know there are circumstances and times with people might need to use throwaway items – we all get caught up and live in different circumstances. When you do need to use disposables, check the ingredients – look for organic and plastic free.

Don’t flush!

A very important thing to remember with ALL period products, whatever they are made of, is NOT TO FLUSH THEM DOWN THE LOO!

Around 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 panty liners are flushed down the loo every day in the UK. These can block the toilet, sewage system or find their way into our waterways and oceans. Tampons do not break up like toilet paper. 

A single pad can take up to 500 years to break down. And even when it breaks down it still exists as microplastics. If you dispose of a period product, put it in the bin, then at least it will go to landfill instead of potentially ending up in the environment. Even better – stick to reusables!

Your period, your way to make a difference each month

Everyone has different bodies, flow levels and cycles, so whatever product you decide to use, make sure it works for you as well as the planet. It might take a bit of time to settle into your waste-free period routine, but each month think of the 27,938 tampons and applicators that are found on the world’s beaches every single day. You are helping to stop the plastic flow by by having your period plastic-free. #BloodyHero

Ella Daish, period-plastic campaigner and one of Planet Patrol’s Planet Heroes, has put together a handy guide ‘Eco-Period Guide’ which you can read here.

By Hannah Whiting

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