The eco friendly, zero waste period

Filed in Blog by on December 5, 2011 15 Comments
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Making your period zero waste

Making your period zero waste

Morning lovelies.

Did you read about the recent Kimberley Clark recall on one of their Kotex tampon ranges?

Straight from the horses mouth, these tampons were manufactured with a raw material contaminated with a bacterium which could cause health risks including vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease or even life-threatening conditions.

Ewwww. No thanks.

But that’s not all. Did you know that two to three people die every year in the U.K. as a result of toxic shock syndrome?

Some of these people get TSS as a result of using tampons. The toxic shock causing bacteria thrives on synthetic fibres found in all major tampon brands such as rayon or viscose.

On top of all THAT is the fact that each woman uses around 12000 pads or tampons in her lifetime. And as you all know, there is no such place as ‘away’ so when you flush them ‘away’ or ‘throw them away’ 125-150 kg of sanitary products in your lifetime ends up in landfill, being incinerated or washed up on beaches.

Not exactly a great legacy is it ladies?

Fortunately there are several ways to ride horses and go swimming just like the gals in the tampon ads WITHOUT contributing to landfill or beach waste:


The Mooncup is made from medical grade silicone and is a small ‘cup’ which you insert to catch your blood flow. You empty it out, give it a clean and Bob’s your Uncle (or Flo’s your Aunt). They last several years and cost around £16.

Washable pads

Washable pads are made from any funky material you like and replace disposable sanitary towels. Fancy some leopard skin fleece, hemp fairies or cotton unicorns? The world is your oyster and your periods will never be dull again. Pads cost anything from £4 for a panty liner to £15 for a post partum pad and last several years. But you know what? Why not go through your fabric stash and make your own?

Sea sponges

Natural sea sponges are used just like tampons, except you clean and reuse them. These cost around £10 for two and last a year.

None of these options are cheap initially, but long term you’ll be quids in and the environment will love you for it.

What about you – how you embraced a zero waste period or does the idea gross you out?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (15)

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  1. Kate says:

    Diva cup! I was so grossed out by the idea at first, but it’s actually less gross once you get used to it. Since I still have littles I took a few fleece diaper liners and repurposed them as, well, liners.

  2. CarSue says:

    Same as Kate, I am a Diva Cup convert! The idea never grossed me out, but I know lots of women who think it’s disgusting. I figure though, I have to handle and look at the blood regardless of if it’s on a tampon or in the cup, but the big difference with the cup is that I’m eliminating needless landfill waste. So, that also means I don’t have a rancid little waste bin filled with used bloody tampons under my bathroom sink! That’s something I don’t miss, and something way grosser than the cup!

  3. Compostwoman says:

    Mooncup and organic cotton tampons used here, also washables. I also compost the tampons ( in a dedicated bin!) with other “personal” waste and then use this compost in the bottom of holes for trees and shrubs etc.

    The blood from the mooncup is also composted in my “special” compost bin, or could be used directly, diluted, as a fertiliser for plants

  4. Sue C says:

    Well as we’re talking intimately, the coil I have means my flow is very light so I’ve been using shop-bought liners for the last couple of years. But the article about making your own washable ones appeals. It’s being printed off right now so I can make templates. Thanks Mrs G.

  5. LJayne says:

    Have been a mooncup user for a number of years now. Absolutely love it. Doesn’t bother me at all but then I was also a cloth nappy user for 3 kids and you just get used to handling stuff. Plus it’s only blood and it doesn’t smell until it comes into contact with air, by which time you are emptying it anyway iyswim.

    I have some washable pads from Ella’s House for the times I need them but it isn’t every month. The best thing about something like this is that because it only catches, rather than absorbing, everything feels better and in fact my period is shorter & lighter.

    I think everyone should use them and have managed to convert a few friends 🙂

  6. Hazel says:

    LJayne, you wrote exactly what I was going to say!
    I’m pretty hard to ‘gross out’ (10 years as a nurse, mostly on intestinal surgery wards does that for you…) but really, it’s just blood, and your own at that! Or maybe that makes it worse…

    I love love love my mooncup. Even the organic tampons used to worry me, and I also love the fact that I haven’t spent anything on sanpro for almost 10 years. When you work out how much tampons etc cost, £17 on a cup looks pretty good value!

    DD1 uses cloth pads and is very happy with them. They cost a bit initially (I meant to make them but she caught me by surprise!) but nothing since. DD2 (aged 8) was asking about the ‘tiny nappies’ in the wash (think she was hoping to cadge them for her dolls!) so we had a brief discussion about periods and disposable v washable pads, and washable seemed eminently sensible to her. She then went on to say she’d like pink ones, preferably with flowers. Right. Better get sewing, and a bit quicker than last time…

    Compostwoman, I knew I’d read of someone that composted the blood. I don’t do that (yet!) but I do water the plants with DD’s soaking water :o)

  7. Sooz says:

    I really want to do this…thanks for the washable pads info I’m going to save it…although I have to wait till I move out for this one…I did mention it to my mum and she said something along the lines of ‘not in my washing machine!’ It’s bad enough I have to sneak my cotton hankies in…sigh, sigh…one day!

  8. before mooncups and washable pads become mainstream, there needs to be a tidal change in the commercial view of a female biological status…what once was considered shameful, must be ever so consistently reviewed as absolutely essential to species survival = ergo—normal monthly happening, not something hidden-unsanitary or shameful…
    this article is so helpful, i regret years spent in fear and shame, due to societal pressure..time to move on from jokes and repression to silent acceptance of all women’s trumpets, just better periods..period!

  9. LJayne says:

    Nadine, I really agree with you.

    So it definitely has to start with us mums too. Hazel, I want my dd1 and dd2 to use washable/mooncup from the word go if possible (they are only 5 and 3 at the mo!) so I’m glad to come across someone else who has done it.

  10. Tracey says:

    I totally love my mooncup and wish I’d had one from the start. I’ve converted 2 friends, but my little sister wouldn’t even let me discuss it – she was horrified I was talking about periods without whispering and several closed doors between us and the rest of the world. I’m tempted to ask Mrs Clause to wrap one and get Santa to pop it in her stocking. If she has one, there’s a (small, but there) chance she’ll try it. 😛
    Mrs Clause noted that it sounded like a great idea, but she’s past all that. 🙂

  11. Hazel says:

    @LJayne: Start planning now! One minute DD1 was 5 and the next she was 12! It was also supposed to say DD2 is 8, and not a cool smiley…

    I must confess I kind of presented it as if it went without saying that she’d want to use washable. We discussed that her friends at school were likely to use disposable, and that there may be occasions when she would want to as well, but actually even on a recent short school trip we packed plenty of pads and a washable waterproof bag to store them in and she was fine.

  12. Jane says:

    Only pads for monthly periods (or alternatives to them) are discussed. How about incontinence solutions? I have found some pants with a built in pad that can be reused but am still awaiting feed-back from the trials. It is not something that one necessarily wants to risk trialling!

  13. Carly says:

    Ha. I was asked yesterday if I had a tampon to lend (funny choice of word). Even though I’m at full force menstruation, I said no. I was too shy and wimpy to explain about the diva cup I had in. I’m converted but not a converter.

    Oh, I’ve been using this one for at least 3 years and it’s going fine. Before, with the OB brand I was using, I was getting dried out down there and it was a lot less comfy – I was also worried what effect that had on my health (TSS is a scary warning on every box of tampons!) My cup lasts longer and I don’t feel it at all. I’ve only had a couple leaks on my heavy first days when I forget to empty it for a bit too long.

  14. Teresa says:

    I bought a moon cup seven years’ ago and £17 was quite a bit of money back then so I bought it with money received for Christmas. My periods were so heavy and frequent it paid for itself in four months instead of the six months as expected though I still used disposable sanitary towels at the same time. Even though I was over 40 I used the smaller size.

  15. Teresa says:

    Don’t recommend the sea sponges I started using a few months before I bought the moon cup. I had three and washing them out was tricky when out and about and they wouldn’t dry in time to use again. I would have needed to have had six of them. Only useful when you have light periods.

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