Sustainable Menstruation - What is your pick?
When it comes to sustainable menstruation, menstrual cups undoubtedly are the best choice. There qualify on all aspects lost costs, low maintenance, low water usage, low carbon footprint, and even less space. However, there are other products available in the market- disposables or reusables that are presented as sustainable or eco-friendly. Let’s look at each of the products and their pros and cons.
Cloth Pads – Many women are slowly switching to cloth pads and cloth panty liners to ditch disposables. They are economical and they usually last for 5 years or more. Once used they did need to be rinsed and can be washed with other clothes in the washing machine. If they go hard, they can be soaked in vinegar and rinsed. Most cloth pads come with a PUL lining which makes it leak proof. However, the downside is that quite a few cloth pads come in artificial fabrics which contributes to microplastic problems in waters. So, the best would be to choose cotton ones that not only absorb well but don’t contribute to the microplastic problem.
- Reusable and hence Zero Waste
- You can stitch your cloth pads
- Very suitable for those with a lower flow
- Microplastic pollution from artificial fabrics of cloth pads (To avoid this, choose cotton ones)
- It might not appeal to some to carry a used cloth pad when you are out and require a change of pads during the day.
Viewpoint: Cloth Pads are best suited with a normal or lower flow. If you are using disposable panty liners, cloth panty liners without PUL are the best choice. Without PUL ones are those which have no artificial fabrics whatsoever.
Period Panties - They are pretty much like cloth pads in the shape of a panty. This is more convenient in terms of wearing. One does not have to worry about the adhesiveness of the pad or whether the pad is put in place. They can be used as a back up for menstrual cups or cloth pads or directly. They are like cloth pads in function and maintenance. They need to be rinsed and can be washed with other clothes in the washing machine.
- Easy Wearing
- Reusable and hence zero waste
- Very suitable for people with normal or low flow
- Microplastic pollution from artificial fabrics. The absorbent layer and outer layers in period panties are usually made from artificial fabrics
- It might not appeal to some to carry a used panty when you are out and require a change of pads during the day.
Viewpoint: It is quite useful for normal or low flow. We hope the market can give more options for natural fabrics absorbency.
Menstrual Cups: They are the best for menstruation. Hassle-free, easy maintenance, economical, and very effective. Menstrual cups have picked up in recent years because of their sheer convenience. If you have not started yet, it is time to start one. Though manufacturers suggest a change of cup every year, these cups can last for 10 years. The whole inserting thing may seem a big deal, but once you get the hang of it, it is as simple as changing your panty. Some don’t prefer menstrual cups for leaks, however, leaking can be sorted out if we address the cause of the issue. Also, we need to give a couple of periods to get the hang of it.
- Most economical
- Most efficient and hassle-free.
- Reusable and sustainable
- Far less maintenance.
They are not suitable during the postpartum period.
Viewpoint: They are best for menstruation in terms of effectiveness, cost, and sustainability. They are most effective because they can hold more than any other product for menstruation. They require the least efforts of maintenance with sterilizing them before or after use. Most sustainable as the least amount of resources is required during production, use, maintenance, and disposal put together.
Disposable Biodegradable Sanitary Pads: They are not entirely sustainable since resources are used to produce them and after a single use they are trashed. Most biodegradable sanitary pads are made from plant cellulose or cotton. The outer layers are made from either non-biodegradable cotton mixed absorbent layers or bioplastics. They can biodegrade/composted quickly in controlled environments. However, since more and more landfill waste is incinerated in the UK, these biodegradable pads are better than plastic ones. They don’t release any toxic air or toxic waste(ash) after burning as they are made from plant-based sources. Also, they are absent of any toxicity associated with plastics during use and after disposal. They are as effective in functional use as plastic pads.
Many of us are of the understanding that if our sanitary pads are disposed of responsibly, there we don’t harm the environment. However, the plastic ones leach chemicals into the ground and water which passes on and comes back into our food chain. If convenience is prime to you, which is why disposable sanitary pads are easier; then one as well might choose biodegradable and compostable ones so that they don’t leach toxicity of chemicals in our environment.
- Suitable for conventional pad users
- Suitable for all kind of flows- heavy or light
- They are eco-friendly in the sense they don’t leach any toxicity to us or environment
- It is an onetime use
- Generates waste (although not toxic plastic waste) which can biodegrade or be incinerated
We strongly encourage reusables for a happy period for both the planet and us. However, if you cannot choose reusables for some reason, it is best to go with biodegradable disposables.