Today I want to talk to you about sanitary protection. Ya know, that stuff us lovely ladies have to deal with once a month.
What do the majority of us do? We bag it and bin it (if we’re good), and if we’re very bad we flush it down the loo.
Marketing tells us our periods are something to be hidden away, dealt with discretely and kept private. I’m not going to necessarily take you out of your comfort zone with that idea, but have you ever stopped to think just how much waste this monthly ritual of bagging and binning (or flushing) creates?
In her lifetime, Ms Average will rustle her way through an astonishing 12-17,000 items of sanitary protection. Collectively, on our green and pleasant island we buy more than three billion disposable sanitary items every year.
If your monthly offerings go to landfill, plastic backed linings (and all those little individual wrappings so no one knows what is inside your handbag) stay there for hundreds of years.
Flush and forget?
If it gets flushed down el toiletto, it might end up washed up on a beach somewhere or pass you by and wave hello next time you take a dip in the ocean. Over 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999. (from the Center for Marine Conservation, info featured in E Magazine, March/April Issue 2001)
The thinner and more absorbant the product, the more synthetic absorbent materials made from petroleum it has in it. That funky ‘dri weave top sheet’ is just a load of plastic with holes in it that sits around in the landfill long after you have expired.
So, what’s a woman who wants to reduce her household landfill waste to do?
For those who are ready to embrace reusable products, there are two options – the menstrual cup and the washable pad.
The Mooncup is made from silicone rubber. It’s a bell shaped ‘cup’ that you insert like a tampon. It collects your blood and you simply empty it out, rinse it under the tap and insert again. They cost around £18 from Boots and health food shops. One cup will last several years so you don’t need a degree in maths to work out the massive financial as well as environmental savings.
As for ‘airing your knickers in public’; empty the contents into the toilet, wipe around with a tissue and re insert. Then give the menstrual cup a proper wash as soon as the first opportunity arises.
AND there’s no noise! that’s right, no noise. No rip of cardboard as you open the box, no tearing of paper as you open the tampon, and no bit of plastic that always floats in the toilet after you’ve flushed it. They’re MORE discreet than conventional products.
Washable pads are as effective as disposables. For women who baulk at the idea of getting close to their own blood; surely you have at some time had to deal with blood on your knickers, a bath towel or your bed sheets? (if not, call me, I want to lock you in a cage and do lots of horrible experiments on you).
You treat washable sanitary pads like anything else that gets blood on it: soak the pads in cold water and put them in with your regular wash. Most suppliers stock small waterproof bags that you can keep them in until you get home if you are out and about.
Like washable nappies, washable sanitary pads need half a dozen washes to reach maximum absorbancy, so don’t be too disappointed when you use them first time.
Washable pads come in two types – all in one and those with inserts. All in ones are less fiddley and come in a range of absorbencies, so all the work is done for you.
Pads with inserts give you more flexibility. You can adjust the absorbancy to how much protection you need by adding or taking away inserts.
Rachael Hertogs makes the only organic pads in the UK. She has a range of styles and colours to choose from and is just such a nice person doing her bit to change the world that I insist you buy from her henceforth. For a chance to win one of her pads throughout the month of June, enter our competition!
Hemp is 4 times more absorbant than cotton, so opt for those if you need extra protection or have a particularly heavy flow. Try Ella’s House for hemp pads. (Click on Minx pads to find them)
Washable pads have a higher initial financial outlay, but they last for years and years so the money is soon recouped. If you’re a seamstress, you can slash the cost by making your own. Many moons kindly share a sewing pattern for free on their site.
The fun thing; yes I said fun in an article about periods; about washable pads is you can match them to your outfit, your mood, your paintwork or your toilet roll. You can buy leopard print, moons and stars, cute bunnies, hearts, every colour of the rainbow or go au natrelle. The choices are endless.
If this article has you kicking and screaming with resistance at giving up convenient disposable products then all is not lost. You can switch to the Natracare brand of products which is available in health food shops and some chemists. Their sanitary pads and liners are made from biodegradable, chlorine-free cellulose and Bioplastics which are biodegradable and compostable under the correct conditions, and are safe for sceptic tanks. More on what on earth that means when I get a response from the email I sent them.
What do you think? Are you already a convert, are you intrigued to have a go or totally turned off by the whole idea?
Don’t forget to enter our competition to win a washable pad from Rachael Hertog!