Planet friendly periods: Say no to single use plastic for your flow

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Ladies, let’s own this. It’s time to look at the single use plastic impact of our periods because there’s a whole different world out there, with new brands coming up with innovative, often plastic free, solutions to the red tide we all know and love (ahem).

Georgina Wilson-Powell 9 July 2018

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The average woman uses 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. Together with pads and panty liners they make up 200,000 tonnes of waste a year.

As well as a lot of money, that’s a huge amount of disposable plastic jettisoned into the environment, without a lot of thought (because who really wants to think about their period more than they have to).

Hands up who hasn't really ever considered the plastic consumption of her period?

It’s usually a quick swoop of tampons in the chemist or supermarket, hustle them into your handbag as quick as you’ve paid and your mind is on a million other things when you chuck that applicator or plastic wrapper into the bin.

And let’s be honest, switching from single use plastic isn’t as easy as we think. It often means thinking a bit more about what we buy instead of reaching for convenience. But our planet needs us to think a bit more about what we can do instead.

Shockingly, the Marine Conservation Society found 20 tampons and sanitary items per 100 metres of shoreline in their 2016 beach clean-up. Pretty gross for us, pretty fatal for marine life.

It’s not just the plastic wrappers and plastic applicators but also what’s in the individual pads and tampons. Some pads can contain up to four plastic bags’ worth of plastic. 

In short, period products are the ultimate in single use plastic products and take 500 years to decompose.

Cover Plastic Free Periods

Is it time you thought about the impact your period has on the planet?

The good news?

Things are shifting. More eco-friendly period products are on the horizon, with a flood of new brands on offer who don’t use plastic (or much less) but aren’t sacrificing any of the comfort and security we need once a month. They can’t help with the crappy cramps but they can help with your impact on the planet.

Natalie Fee, founder of campaign group City to Sea, said: “It’s truly fantastic to see the movement towards plastic-free period products gaining momentum. Whilst periods can be messy and complicated, making them plastic-free isn’t!"

"We’ve been championing plastic-free periods alongside Natracare since we started campaigning in 2015 and have had millions of people engage with our mission - to make plastic pollution from periods a thing of the past! People are looking for ways to reduce their plastic footprint - using plastic-free period products is a simple, effective and affordable way to do it.”

Natracare Plastic Free Periods1

Did you know pads and tampons can take 500 years to break down?

Natracare

Plastic free period campaign

Ella Daish is campaigning to make plastic free periods more affordable and accessible to all, by making all menstrual products plastic free. She’s got over 100,000 signatures meaning this issue should be debated in Parliament. (You can add your signature here).

We caught up with her for a quick chat.

Scroll down for our favourite menstrual brands that don’t use single use plastic for an eco-friendly period.

What are the barriers to wide scale period plastic waste change?

Ella Daish: “Essentially the barriers are the accessibility to eco-friendly products and the taboo in discussing periods which leads to women being unaware of hidden plastic in period products. This feeds low consumer demand and doesn’t motivate manufacturers to change especially considering that plastic is so cheap.”

Ella Daish Plastic Free Periods
“Many new products are entering the market including options such as the reusable tampon applicator and period pants”

How can we make plastic free periods affordable for all?

ED: “By encouraging more people to buy and use eco-friendly products, manufacturers will likely respond to changes in consumer demand by making these products more widely available, which in turn will likely lower prices through increased product competitiveness.”

What’s been the reaction to your campaign from men?

ED: “The reaction from men to the campaign has been brilliant, with nothing but positivity, praise and encouragement, and moreover, many have voiced their concerns that they too were unaware of the plastic content of these products.”

Are you aware of all the new brands coming through that don’t use single use plastic?

ED: “Many new products are entering the market including options such as the reusable tampon applicator and period pants. This is fantastic because it gets more people talking openly about periods but also gives consumers a real chance to explore different options without the environmental impact.” 

Is buying these products online better than buying on the high street?

ED: “It’s good in the sense that you have access to eco-friendly options that are not always available on the high-street, however, delivery may include plastic packaging that would not be necessary for high-street purchases."

Say no to single use plastic for your flow...

...and hello to these new period brands 

Wuka

Period pants are now a thing and there are several brands who are leading the bloody revolution. Wuka’s period underwear are pants you can wear without a pad and they’re designed to absorb blood without leaking using four layers of different materials - for up to eight hours.

The hip hugging pants are comfortable, hygienic thanks to antibacterial fabric and can be washed in your regular wash, plus there’s no plastic waste each month.

Wuka Plastic Free Periods

Would you try out a pair of period pants next month?

TOTM

TOTM (Time Of The Month) deliver 100% organic cotton tampons and pads that biodegrade. Their tampons come with cardboard applicator tubes so there’s nothing plastic in these babies at all. Organic cotton will be softer and kinder on your body than the synthetic, plastic filled tampons and pads that mainstream brands use.

Totm Plastic Free Periods

Plastic free tampons that are made from 100% organic cotton

Thinx

Thinx make period pantsusing organic cotton, and their ‘period better’ underwear comes in three styles, from boy shorts to hipster briefs. Again there’s four layers which includes moisture wicking cotton; antimicrobial lining; super absorbent fabric and a leak resistant lining. You can customise enough underwear for your cycle and get a discount.

Thinx Plastic Free Periods

Period pants are becoming the next big thing in underwear

Natracare

The grandmother of plastic free periods, Natracare has been around for three decades. It makes pads and tampons from organic cotton, fluffed wood pulp and bio-plastics which means its products biodegrade instead of hanging about for 500 years.

Susie Hewson, founder and CEO of Natracare, said: “Natracare was created almost three decades ago out of concern for the impact on the environment of the origins of raw materials used to make feminine hygiene as well as the future consequences of their waste disposal. 30 years of campaigning for and developing environmentally compatible menstrual products, has led to this perfect storm of actions to reduce plastic entering landfill and our oceans. By choosing plastic-free, women have the power to help protect the environment and their own health."

Natracare Plastic Free Periods

Choose organic pads and tampons instead of chemical filled ones

Lola

Lola want to be the brand you turn to for everything from tampons to condoms, using the best natural ingredients. So their biodegradable tampons are made from organic cotton and contain no chemicals, chlorine bleach or synthetic materials, meaning they’ll decompose. However some still come wrapped in plastic and some come with plastic applicators - but you can choose cardboard applicators and paper wrapped tampons.

But we have to give props to Lola for offering up subscription boxes where you pick and mix different tampon and pad types, and the brand donates period products to women in need in the US - with over 100,000 tampons donated so far.

Lola Plastic Free Periods

Do you know what's in your tampon? Lola's subscription tampons are biodegradable, your regular ones probably aren't

Flex

And now for something completely different. Flex is a new ‘tampon alternative’ that can last up to 12 hours. A disposable menstrual disc, it’s designed to fit where the cervix and the vaginal canal meet, with no mess and no fuss. It’s not as intrusive as a cup and made with medical grade polymer, that’s  FDA registered, hypoallergenic, BPA & phthalate free and made without natural rubber latex or silicone

While it’s still disposable, it creates 60% less waste than using tampons each month.

Flex Plastic Free Periods

Flex it and forget it. This unique polymer barrier has a different solution

Modibodi

Modibodi also make period underwear - and swimwear and activewear - and have maternity and teen ranges. The sustainable period wear brand use organic bamboo and merino wool to create an absorbent, moisture wicking, leak proof core that's only 3mm thick and works for all kinds of flow.

Lady leaks don't stand a chance here and you can also support disadvantaged women by buying pairs to pay forward.

Modi Bodi Plastic Free Periods

Modibodi cater to every size and shape of woman

My Freda

My Freda is a monthly subscription box that has a social purpose, above sorting you out with sanitary stuff. You can ‘personalise your period’ with up to 16 products and there’s a calculator to help you work out when you want it sent each month. 

The organic cotton tampons will biodegrade and are chemical, polyester and chlorine free (amongst other things) but still come with a plastic applicator. But it’s with the pads that things get interesting: the pads use 70% renewable materials (with an absorbent core made from totally chlorine-free, renewable and sustainable wood pulp) and come wrapped in biodegradable film. The night pads are made in an eco-friendly factory using 100% renewable energy with zero landfill waste.

My Freda’s manifesto outlines what the brand believes, such as natural period products should be available in all toilets and workplaces and women around the world should have access to sanitary products no matter where they live. It donates a portion of profits to organisations that work for universal access to period care products.

My Freda Plastic Free Periods

This social enterprise subscription box gives you everything you need to have a plastic free period

Knix

The period pants are here to stay. Knix also make reusable, leakproof period underwear, which come in three styles: a thong for lighter days and bikini briefs and boyshorts for the not so light days. The brand is interested in reinventing women’s underwear, away from frilly ideals to multi-tasking, hard-working bras and pants that support us.

Knix Plastic Free Periods

Take a more reusable approach to your period

OHNE

With a cheeky take on saving your vagina from chemical nasties as well as the planet, OHNE is a new tampon subscription box, filled with your choice of sizes of certified 100% organic cotton tampons with biodegradable cardboard applicators (or no applicators at all). They arrive in sleek cardboard boxes that fit through your letterbox.

The brand also want to shake up period poverty too so they've partnered with School Club Zambia to put a percentage of profits towards building toilet blocks and providing menstrual education. And their website acts like a knowledge platform to bust taboos around periods. Good work, ladies.

Ohne Plastic Free Periods1

Ohne have your back (and your vagina)

Discover more plastic free solutions in the pebble pod

Dame

Don’t want to give up the tampons? Dame is the world’s first reusable tampon applicator. Made of medical grade Mediprene that’s smooth, antibacterial and self-cleaning, Dame comes in its own little travel case and with organic cotton tampons or it will fit any other tampons. Why throw away something that you'll use every month for years?

Dame Horizontal

The world's first reusable tampon applicator is here - would you use it?

Glad Rags

Another option for a plastic free period is a reusable cotton pad and Glad Rags are one of the first to turn this low-tech solution into a commercial brand. It makes reusable cloth pads so there’s nothing going in the bin each month. Each cotton pad is made of detachable inserts and stiff wings that snap round your pants, so there’s no adhesive required. Each one can be washed and used for up to five years and the brand encourages women to throw off the feelings of shame of having a period and embrace the natural rhythms of your body.

Glad Rags Plastic Free Periods

Reusable cotton pads can be better for your skin and for the planet

Callaly

Is it a tampon, or a pad liner? Or is it both? Certified BCorp Callaly take an innovative approach to shake things up in period land. The Callaly Tampliner combines a high-quality organic tampon with a soft mini-liner that folds in half between your labia, stopping leaks and the need for another (non biodegradable pad).

The Tampliner is 100% organic and 95% biodegradable - the brand are working on making that 100% very soon - and everything is sent through the post when you need it, in cardboard packaging. Callaly is proof that everything can be redesigned to help us reduce waste - you just need some imagination.

Calaly Plastic Free Periods1

Callaly is an innovative take on trying to reduce the need for pads and tampons

Dear Kate

Period underwear takes a leap forward with Dear Kate, which expands the technology to yoga pants and leotards, so you can feel comfortable going commando, no matter what day of the month. Whether it’s the underwear or activewear, there’s no plastic anywhere in these low maintenance, leak resistant products. Everything is 100% fabric and 100% breathable meaning you can get on with feeling fabulous.

Dear Kate Plastic Free Periods

Dear Kate's period products keep you fresh and fabulous? What's not to love?

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Do you know how to make your period a planet friendly one? Check out these ecofriendly and plastic free brands today!

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