Menstruation, more commonly known as a period, is something that people with uteruses will go through roughly every month from when they are a teenager to middle age. The average (menstruating!) person will use around 11,000 sanitary products throughout their lifetime, and this will cost roughly £6,000! Read the following tabs to find out more about periods, the menstrual cycle, what sanitary product options are available and the difference between them.
Periods and Sustainability
A period or menstruation is a part of the menstrual cycle, where the lining of the uterus is shed.
This normally happens roughly every month, lasts for a few days on average and will happen from puberty until menopause.
However, everyone’s cycle is different!
Watch these videos to find out more about the menstrual cycle.
When people with uteruses menstruate, products are used to absorb or catch menstrual blood.
Have you heard of any period products? If so, which ones?
Watch this video to find out about different products available!
Disposable menstrual products are products that can only be used once, then they must be put in the bin and disposed of.
Single use products should be put in the general waste bin – never flushed down the toilet!
Pads and Liners
Pads and liners are single use, disposable products worn for up to 8 hours
- Made from cotton and sometimes other materials such as plastic and fibre
- They have a sticky underside to stick onto underwear and absorb blood
- Different size pads are available for different flows
- Roughly cost 10p – 25p per pad
Tampons are single use, disposable products worn for up to 8 hours
- Made from cotton and sometimes other materials such as rayon and polyester, they are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual blood
- Different size tampons are available for different flows
- Applicator tampons come preloaded with a tampon, and can make insertion easier, but create more waste
- Applicators can be made of plastic or cardboard
- Non applicator tampons are inserted by hand
It’s estimated that 1 pack of sanitary pads have as much plastic as 5 plastic bags! (Naturacare, 2019)
2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet every single day, in the UK alone!
These items can end up in rivers, beaches and the sea, and are bad for the environment and the wildlife that call them home.
Did you know there are reusable period products?
This means that they can be used, cleaned and used again! How many times a reusable period product can be reused depends on what material it’s made from.
What do you think the benefits of period products being reusable are?
- They create less waste, as less products are thrown away
- They are better for the environment as less products will be flushed which end up in oceans and rivers
- Although they can be expensive initially, they can be cheaper in the long term
There are alternatives to disposable tampon applicators – the DAME device can be loaded with a non applicator tampon
- Reusable applicator reduces plastic and cardboard waste compared to regular applicator tampons
- Loaded with a non applicator tampon, inserted, cleaned and reused!
- The applicator is made from a body safe mix of plastic and rubber
- Can last up to 10 years!
- Costs £17.99
Menstrual cups are made from soft materials such as latex, or silicone. They are folded and inserted internally, like a tampon, and come in different sizes and shapes.
- The cup can be worn for up to 12 hours, or until full, and can be worn overnight.
- To remove the cup, you pinch the base of the cup, break the seal and pull. Once removed, the cup can be emptied down the toilet or sink, rinsed clean with water and reinserted.
- At the end of your period, your cup can be cleaned by boiling in a saucepan of hot water (that is used only for cleaning your cup!) for 5 – 10 minutes or using sterilizing tablets.
- Can last up to 10 years!
- Cost can range from £8.99 to £30
Reusable Pads and Liners
Similar to ‘standard’ pads and liners, but they can be reused!
- They come in many shapes and sizes, materials and patterns. You can even make your own!
- When it’s time to change your pad, remove and rinse with water. Can be washed in your regular wash or saved in a wet bag and washed together at the end of your period.
- Prices range from £3.30 – £10 per pad
- Can last up to 10 years
Underwear with absorbent materials worn instead of your normal underwear during your period.
- Can absorb up to 2 tampons worth of blood!
- Changed every 4 – 12 hours
- Washable, reusable
- Can last from 25 washes to 2 years
- £14.50 to £26 per pair
There are lots of options for period products, non reusable and reusable.
Take a look at the following diagrams to see comparisons between the different types, and to see what best fits your needs.
If you decide to use disposable products, remember to put them in the bin and not to flush them!
Teaching students and groups about Sustainability and Periods can:
- PSHE – Teach about the menstrual cycle and periods, and period products
- Help students make informed choices about the products available
- Make period products accessible to all by signing up to government schemes