Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Every month, women have to do the bulk shopping of toiletries that can last the whole menstrual cycle. These include sanitary towels, tampons or panty liners for those light days at the beginning and end of the periods. But the confusing question always remain, how bad are these menstrual cycle toiletries for the environment? Well, some say they are made of cotton, therefore, biodegradable.
So, we can generally agree that it may not be so bad, but how about the cumulative effects? From puberty, women will use disposable pads for their entire lifetime. Interestingly, they are only used once and disposed. Most people never have to wonder where it will end up once it has lost its usefulness.
Considering the amount of pads and tampons used in a lifetime, doesn’t it amount to a lot? Do they end up at the right place or in landfills or do they end up disrupting environmental channels and pathways? While still pondering about all this, here are some of the noted concerns why disposable pads can be harmful to the environment.
As much as pads and tampons are mostly made from cotton, they also have plastic components and of course the problem of plastic pollution is widely known. For instance, tampons and pads are wrapped in plastic packaging, pads use waterproof plastic backing.
The non-organic pads and tampons may contain toxin dioxins, which end up in soils and water supplies eventually hurting the ecosystem. Pads also contain fragrance and other added ingredients used to prevent odours that can be harmful to the environment.
Pesticides are heavily used in cotton production since it is not a food product and, therefore, some of it end up in groundwater supplies either present as residue in the pads/tampons or due to pesticide pollution
Accordingly, there is need to switch to reusable menstrual products and here are the strongest reasons you should make the switch.
1. A Variety of products to choose from
There are different types of reusable menstrual products and all you have to do is pick one that suits you. Just like there are a variety of disposable sanitary products that you can choose from, there are also a variety of reusable menstrual products that you can choose from, which best suits your daily activities and which you can be comfortable using.
These include; reusable cloth pads, period panties and menstrual cups. While period panties are great for vigorous body activities like workouts and yoga because they cling to your body during physical movement, they are not very absorbent to heavy flows like cloth pads. Menstrual cups, however, are for those ladies that are comfortable with using tampons because it entails the same usage technique.
2. Easy to clean
Most females have never thought of using reusable menstrual products because of the hustle associated with using them but, ladies, it is not that bad. As much as dealing with sanitariums is thought to be the grossest part of menstruation, it simply requires a lot of hygienic maintenance.
Using reusable menstrual products can be a solution because it is quite easy and manageable if you know what you are doing. Pads, cups and panties are easy to clean after use all you have to do is wash thoroughly with clean cold water because hot water sets in stains. You can soak them first if there is a stain or rinse immediately after removal if you are in the proximity of your bathroom. You can also chose to shower with them and wash while taking a bath.
3. Saves you money
Everybody prefers the cheaper option, who doesn’t? Although investing in a quality reusable menstrual product costs you more money at the initial purchase, it saves you more over a long period as you don’t have to buy monthly disposables.
Purchasing tampons and pads frequently costs much more because of the regular consumption, therefore, the products do not last very long unlike buying a pack of reusable pads that can last you months or years, depending on usage and method of cleaning, which in the long run will cost you less money.
This is also applicable in scenarios or situations where sanitary toiletries are not easily accessible or where most women can’t afford the cost of constantly buying disposable pads and tampons. In such cases, you can opt for cloth pads which will last longer and also affordable.
4. Safer for the body
Disposables sanitary products cause rashes and irritations. Cloth pads and period panties are made from cotton material that is soft and breathable and allows air flow to the sensitive parts. It also keeps these areas moisturized unlike regular tampons and pads that absorb all moisture from the vagina living it dry and, therefore, susceptible to vaginal infections.
Menstrual cups do not absorb the natural secretions of the vagina so you never have the same drying effect. Tampons dry out the vagina that changes the pH balance which in turn causes thrush. Cloth pads help out in combatting thrush as it leaves the area dry and cool.
5. Ingredients of disposable pads are harmful
The materials used in the manufacture of disposable pads and tampons include plastics and synthetic fiber which are harmful to the vagina. Paper sanitary products cause vaginal irritation due to the constant friction with the body when moving about. Some women are also sensitive to the bleaching agents used in the production of pads and tampons.
Others are also sensitive to the fragrance chemicals used to hide the odor that comes along with periods, although these ingredients seem functional and they get the job done, these chemicals and other types of ingredients can, in the long run, cause serious health issues like various types of cancer, infertility, hormone disruptions, and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
6. Increased comfort
It takes an average woman four hours to require a change of sanitary towels during her periods depending on how heavy the flow is. If you are going to wear something between your legs for hours, why not let it be comfortable. Cloth pads are made out of cotton which is soft and not irritable to the sensitive parts.
Period panties are just like regular panties as they cling to your body making it a favorite for physically active women during their periods. Menstrual cups are very effective when inserted properly as they can be used for up to 12 hours and they don’t leak easily like disposable sanitary pads.
7. Environmentally friendly
Picture this, count the years since you started your periods in your early teens until the present age you are in right now, be it in your mid-twenties or you have just entered your menopause stage. Now, calculate the amount of disposable pads you have used in your life time. Everyone can make their own small personal contribution to the reduction of waste from disposable pads and tampons by switching to reusable menstrual products.
The process of manufacture pollutes the air and water ways and also animal habitats. The components of disposables include plastics, synthetic fibers and bleach that if finds way into the ecosystem, it becomes detrimental. The amount of waste generated is also alarming and it ends up in landfills.
8. Disposable pads are not sterile
The manufacturing, transportation, and displaying process that tampons and pads take is definitely not sterile. Menstrual products are things you expose to the most sensitive part of your body and you should not leave it to chance that the pad you are wearing in hygienic. You never know the path that pad you are putting on took to get to your hands from the moment production begun.
This is unlikely with reusable menstrual products where you get to be 100% sure and satisfied with the level of hygiene as it is up to you to set the standards of how clean you want your pad to be. You get to wash it as often and as thoroughly as you deem fit. This luxury is not an option when using pads and tampons.
9. Change in periods
Many women claim that use of reusable menstrual products leads to decrease in the pain felt with menstrual cramps. It is however not medically proven that reusable menstrual products are the cause of this. Others register a change in the severity or heaviness of their periods and also a change in the duration their periods take. Again, this is not proven as enough research has not been done on the matter but it is an option worth considering especially due to its overall environmental benefits.
Making the monthly trip to the convenient store can sometimes be a nightmare, worst of all running out of supplies at the most inconvenient place can be such a setback. Having a ready cloth pad or undies in your bag seems better than having to run into strangers at the counter every time to purchase your monthly supplies.
Reusable menstrual products are also easy and very convenient to use, it is just as easy as a change of panties as you do every morning. If you are travelling or are on the move, you can simply wrap the used cloth pad or period panties in a bag to take home for cleaning. Cleaning of reusable cloth pads and undies is also as easy as throwing them into the laundry machine.
11. Fashionably feminine
The best thing about buying cloth pads and period panties is that they come in a variety of colorful unique designs, styles, absorbencies, shapes and lengths that you can choose from and you get to pick the design that suits you and says who you are. Disposables come in a standard design and packaging that does not leave much to the imagination and you can only pick out of what is available, which isn’t much.