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Period Without Plastic Part 4: Plastic-free disposable menstrual products

Period Without Plastic Part 4: Plastic-free disposable menstrual products

Over the last few blog posts we've covered the reusables; the cups, the pads and the pants. But invariably these waste-free alternatives won't suit all menstruators all of the time, so this post is dedicated to plastic-free but disposable menstrual products.

Over the last few blog posts we've covered the reusables; the cups, the pads and the pants. But invariably these waste-free alternatives won't suit all menstruators all of the time, so this post is dedicated to plastic-free but disposable menstrual products.

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All that plastic down the drain

The Marine Conservation Society found that around half of UK women flush tampons away. Single use menstrual pads contain up to 90% plastic and tampon applicators are often plastic as well. All of this being thrown down the toilet leads to modern day horrors - such as the Whitechapel 'fatberg'. A monster 250 metres of 'congealed mass of fat and discarded items'. Now tampons and pads are designed to be super absorbent which works in your favour while you're on your period but in sewers they expand in size and get caught up in the fats, oil and grease in the pipes. Ew.

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Apart from being really disgusting, fatbergs can block sewers and overflow - the overflow means waste can end up in our rivers and seas. In fact a UK report found, 7% of the plastic waste on beaches had been flushed down the loo. Check out this short video from City to Sea's plastic free periods campaign:

And then there's health reasons too

You've probably heard of things like Toxic Shock Syndrome, chlorine bleaching, synthetics, rayon. We need to question just exactly what we're putting in our vaginas people! For a really detailed account check out The Atlantic's history of the tampon. For something a little more lighthearted how about a spin on a 90s tune, Detox the Box:

We can do better; planet-friendly alternatives

As with mainstream menstrual products the organic equivalent fall into the same two choices: tampons vs pads.

There is now a range of brands catering to this market, TOM OrganicNatracare, TOTM, OHNE, TOP and Organic Tampons. Some are available in your local stores while many of the smaller brands offer monthly subscriptions delivered straight to your door so no need to get stuck. OHNE for example, let you pick a variety of absorbencies and quantity to suit your cycle. Look out for discounts and free-postage. Brands such as TOTM and OHNE also tackle period poverty with profits from sales as well, which might sway your purchase. There are plenty of other brands that focus on organic tampons or pads but also sell plastic applicators and as we're talking about the environmental impact of our periods we won't be talking about those brands.

On the whole these brands are free of chemicals, rayon and synthetics and are not made from wood pulp. They are fragrance free, hypoallergenic and they are not bleached with chlorine. These products are made from organic cotton which means they are biodegradable. The names mentioned above use biodegradable cardboard applicators and some are also conscientious about the rest of their packaging using corn-biofilm wrapping.

  • Applicator tampons range from £0.27 - £0.31 | $0.34 - $0.39 USD | $0.47 - $0.54 AUD each (in packs of 10 - £2.70 - £3.10) | $3.40 - $3.90 USD | $4.70 - $5.40 AUD)

  • Non-applicator tampons range from £0.20 - £0.36|$0.25 - $0.45 USD $0.34 - $0/62 AUD each in packs of 14 (£2.95 | $3.76 USD | $5.14 AUD) - packs of 16 (£5.80 |$7.39 USD | $10.11 AUD)

  • And pads from £0.10|$0.17 AUD| $0.12 USD each in packs of 9 (£3.30 | $5.75 AUD |$4.20 USD )

What do you think about a reusable applicator?

Just as there are camps of tampon vs pad users - there is the same divide between those who use applicators and those who don't. But you cannot deny that the applicator especially when it's made out of plastic is hugely wasteful. Launched this summer, DAME have brought out the reusable applicator - on crowdfunding platform, it's already surpassed its target!

But remember - bin it don't flush it! 🚮

Now you're equipped with biodegradable synthetic free tampons or pads - these are still for the bin only! And come on, hands up, who's guilty of using A LOT of loo roll to wrap up used tampons 🙋 - that seems pretty wasteful too. But then there are still times when a bin isn't available. Fab Little Bag, a UK startup, have an answer to that. They've put an innovative spin on 'sanitary bag' and designed opaque biodegradable disposable bag - that you can open and seal shut with one hand and store in your bag until you find a bin. So now, no excuses folks!

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Changing period products is a bit like changing banks *sigh*

So there you have it - in this series we have looked at

- reusable menstrual cups

- reusable menstrual pads

- reusable period pants 

- plastic-free disposable tampons and pads - and reusable applicators and biodegradable bags

Changing your period product can be a bit like changing banks - you know what you're using isn't great environmentally, but it feels like a lot of effort to do anything about. You need to do a lot of research, compare and contrast the different products available, it feels like it's a lot of admin and - you've got bigger fish to fry.

We hope we've lightened the load for you with these posts - injected some lighthearted fun and some real life commentary to help you navigate. If you're a HARA blog reader, you're probably a conscientious shopper already - so maybe you're ready for greener periods too.

What we suggest? Share some of these posts with your friends, have a giggle about periods and find out what they're using, what they've struggled with and what they love. Calculate how much waste you could save by taking the Period Waste Calculator. Seek out a discount code or two and perhaps sample some products before committing. And share your stories too - here at HARA we love pants and we love periods - so let's keep the conversation going. 🔴

Let's move one more step towards plastic-free periods.

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