There are around 18 million women of menstruating age in the UK. Disposal of single use menstrual products ie: tampons, pads and applicators generates 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. Women use more than 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime (based on average of 38 years of menstruation using 22 items of sanitary products per cycle, 13 cycles per year), and half of UK women admit to flushing tampons down the toilet. Menstrual products help to make up 80% of drain blockages that cost over £88 million a year to unblock.
Finding an alternative to pads and tampons isn’t always easy. Most supermarkets only stock these plastic heavy solutions, leaving women with little choice when it comes to buying menstrual products during their weekly shop. We’ve put together some of our favourite sustainable and affordable alternatives.
Period underwear takes away the need for pads, tampons, the lot. These specially designed, leak proof undies from WUKA hold four tampons worth of flow, and they look pretty stylish too. Every WUKA pair prevents over 200 disposable period products from going to landfill and they’re available for light, medium and heavy flows. They also have sizes from 2XS to 4XL.
At first, period pants may seem unfairly priced, but they actually work out cheaper than pads and tampons overall. On WUKA’s website, they state that over two years you could spend over £130 on the leading brand of tampons or over £160 on the leading brands of pads, considering a five pack of their their undies are priced between £50 and £99 (and lasting 2+ years), we think its a pretty good swap to make.
Another good plastic free option is a menstrual cup. Flexible and zero waste, TOTM have a range of cups, available in 3 different sizes and all latex, silicone, phthalate free which makes it suitable for sensitive skin. They’re made from medical-grade TPE, a soft and flexible material designed for a secure and comfortable fit. Each TOTM menstrual cup also comes with an organic cotton bag for safekeeping between use.
These cups can be used for years, saving you a lot of money and dramatically cutting down on your plastic waste produced by your usual period products. If tampon and pad prices stayed consistent over 10 years, women who used a $23 (£16) menstrual cup would save 95% of what they would likely spend on pads, and about 93% of what they would likely spend on tampons during that time, according to the researchers’ calculations.
If you’d rather have interchangeable pads rather than underwear, perhaps reusable pads may be the perfect fit for you. Reusable pads can be used with any underwear, their super absorbent layering and suitability for machine washing make them ideal for any type of flow.
This pack of six fun designed pads from Eco Bravo feature an adjustable snap closure which fits any shape or size of underwear. They claim to absorb up to four times more than ordinary pads and certainly have a one-up when it comes to comfort with the soft, fleecy microfibre material. The pack comes with three larger sizes and three smaller sizes to suit heavier or lighter flows. Eco Bravo also claim these pads will last years if taken care of properly; as long as you wash on a low heat and line dry, these pads will cut out the need for disposable pads or tampons completely.