OK, so Plastic-Free July is just around the corner, and you’re preparing your family and friends to lower their plastic footprint. It’s been drilled into us in the past that using plastic straws, single-use water bottles, plastic bags, and disposable coffee cups are the main offenders. But did you know that for over 6 Million Aussie and NZ menstruators, there is a whole bag of plastic being sent to landfill every month… in your underpants?
Periods. The love-hate relationship with our uterus. It’s estimated that each menstruator uses 11, 000-16 000 sanitary items (30 large wheelie bins or 140kg) in their lifetime. And surprisingly, that absorbent sanitary pad is actually made from around 90% plastic and will take up to 500 years to breakdown. There was more plastic produced in the last 10 years than ever before it in the history of plastic.
Studies have shown that the majority of people will continue to use the same sanitary product that they were introduced to during early puberty. But thanks to amendments in the Australian Education Syllabus, and the launch of the SustainablePeriodProject.org which provides free sustainable sanitary education kits to schools, the era of plastic periods is rapidly coming to an end.
“Greening your period and making it plastic free can be a difficult concept for many” says co-founder of The Sustainable Period Project, Carol Morris, “especially since most of us have been raised to believe that menstruating is something to be hidden and disposed of as quickly as possible. Luckily, millennials are owning their period. They’re like “I bleed, get over it!”.
Best of all, with modern sustainable sanitary products there is an option to suit everybody and every lifestyle. Here are Carol's top tips for plastic free periods:
1. Get some silicone!
Most of you would have heard of them by now, but if you’re not already using one a menstural cup is definitely the top pick for the most environmentally friendly and waste-free way to manage your period. Holding a mighty 20-30ml depending on the brand, they can be worn during sport and overnight, and last a good 5-10yrs. Best of all you only need one…although with the fun colours now available it’s tempting to buy 2 and mix’n’match with your wardrobe and mood! Our favourite pick – Lunette menstrual cup RRP$49
2. Change your underpants to change the world
Huh?! Yes, that’s right! With the advancement in modern absorbant fabrics there is now a whole range of period underpants to suit your style and flow. These fit and feel just like regular underpants but have a super-thin absorbent built-in liner that can hold 1-3 tampons worth. Perfect for use with a menstrual cup and fantastic for tweens and teens who want a simple way to deal with periods at school. They last the same as your regular underwear (around 2-3 years). Our favourite pick – Modibodi period underwear RRP$25
3. Try Modern Cloth pads
Believe it or not, ‘modern’ and ‘cloth pad’ actually do belong in the same sentence. Forget the image of your nana’s folded rag and waist belt that she probably emotionally scarred you with as a child, modern cloth pads are here to stay! They come in a range of cute prints and styles, and have a waterproof backing on them. Super thin, they sit in your underpants like regular sanitary pads and are held in place with press snaps. Great for use at the end of your period when you don’t feel like using an internal product, and also for teens. Our favourite pick – Hannah Pad RRP $15
4. Choose natural fibres
If the thought of reusable sanitary products grosses you out, don’t despair! You can still go plastic-free on your period by switching to biodegradable pads and tampons. These look and feel just like the conventional plastic-containing disposable pads and tampons, but are made of natural fibres that decompose in around 6-12months in landfill…which is much better than 500years! They are now available in most supermarket chains and pharmacies. Our favourite picks – TOM and OrganYc
5. Mix it up!
Making your period plastic-free is a journey, so if you are still not sure about what plastic-free option suits your lifestyle just start by mixing it up a little – try using re-usables at home and biodegradables disposable when out, cloth pads for work and a menstrual cup for overnight, period pants for gym and biodegradable tampons for swimming. You will soon find that sustainable and plastic free sanitary options are the future of period care.