Periods! Half the population gets them, but our history of menstrual taboos and period shaming means they’re rarely talked about with frankness and open honesty. Unfortunately for our environment, this means that the environmental impacts of traditional menstrual products are rarely talked about either.
THE PLASTIC PROBLEM
Many tampon applicators are made of plastic but are you surprised to hear that the tampons themselves have plastic in them too, even in the string! And did you know that sanitary pads are made of up to 90% plastic? In fact, a packet of pads can contain as much plastic as four plastic bags!
A packet of pads can contain as much plastic as four plastic bags
Billions of these pads and tampons get flushed down the loo or thrown into landfill every year where some of them end up in the ocean or on our beaches. This is not ideal for the average beach-goer and nor is it particularly pleasant for the local marine life. Once in the ocean, the plastic in menstrual products breaks down into ever-smaller pieces or microplastics. These tiny pieces of plastic get eaten by marine animals that mistake them for food and they accumulate in the animals’ bodies where they can eventually kill them.
Microplastics also absorb and concentrate chemicals found in the environment, and these chemicals are transferred to humans when they eat seafood. Scientists are still studying the impacts of these chemicals on human health but even before we know the findings, many countries are taking action to reduce microplastics in the environment.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
One way we can help the fight against microplastics is by choosing more eco-friendly menstrual products. And luckily for us there are plenty of awesome products out there to take the plastic out of periods and to suit our needs. All you need to do is an internet search in your region, using search terms like these: menstrual cups, reusuable period underwear, reusable pads. You’ll find a host of products from companies dedicated to producing less harmful period products.
Menstrual cup: a small, flexible funnel-shaped cup made of rubber or silicone
By choosing reusable period products, we can let nature do its thing whilst also looking after nature! Most important of all, talk to your friends and family about these products. Break the cone of silence around periods and encourage others to make the switch.