Lady shopping for sustainable menstruation products

Women's health

Sustainable menstruation

Making your period greener

Clinically reviewed on 07/4/2022 by Bryony Lathbury

Did you know single-use menstrual products produce more than 200,000 tonnes of waste in the UK every year and can take up to 500 years to break down in landfill?1


There’s now a wide range of sustainable period products available, from menstrual cups to reusable sanitary pads and pants. So if you’ve been on autopilot buying your disposable towels and tampons, read on to see some greener alternatives you could try.
 

Some of these options may feel like an investment, like the period pants, with others it’s as simple as switching brand with little difference in the cost. Several companies offer a discount on your first purchase or a subscription service, so if you’ve settled on a particular product, you can save some extra pennies this way. You don’t have to stick to one option either, you may like to mix up your femcare to suit the flow of your cycle or base it around your daily activities. And the benefits don’t stop there as several brands also donate profits or menstrual products to help end period poverty. So by switching to a more sustainable option you’re not just helping the planet and your conscience, you’re helping a fellow gal too.

What’s on the market?

 

Menstrual cups


These are silicone cups that you insert into your vagina to collect the blood. They can be worn for 8-12 hours. Once full, you simply remove the cup, empty the contents (down the toilet), then clean it with water and reinsert. Menstrual cups hold the equivalent of 3-4 tampons, depending on which size you opt for. Prices start from around £20 and they can last up to 10 years. Making it a very affordable and sustainable option. Probably much less than you’d spend on disposable pads or tampons over the course of a year and so much less landfill!

Menstruation mooncup

Reusable sanitary pads


These pads are fabric inserts often made of layers of cotton, that you put on the lining of your pants and fasten underneath the gusset to keep them in place. When you need to change them just rinse in cold water and put them in the washing machine. You can get little wet bags to put the dirty ones in if you’re out and about or until you’re able to pop them in the wash. They come in a variety of sizes and patterns.

reusable period pads

Reusable tampons


These are strips of cotton fabric with a cord attached which you roll into a traditional tampon shape and use just like a regular tampon. But instead of disposing after use, simply rinse in cold water, pop in your wet bag and wash in a washing bag with your regular laundry. After washing, boil the tampon in water for a few minutes to remove any traces of washing detergent. No-one wants washing powder residue in those intimate areas!  

lady happy with the sustainable menstruation options

Period pants


Designed specifically with your period in mind, they have built-in absorbent layers sewn into the briefs. There are lots of brands on the market with a range of styles and fabrics so you can feel proud of your period pants rather than banishing them to the back of your underwear drawer until next month! If you’re thinking about trying a combination of sustainable menstruation products then these pants could be a more comfortable night-time option, with one of the above alternatives for day wear. They come in a variety of styles and sizes.

Period pants

Biodegradable sanitary pads and panty liners


You use these just like regular sanitary towels and liners, the difference being these are compostable. The pad itself tends to be made from cotton pulp with the wrapper being made from a biodegradable corn-starch based bio-polymer. Some brands offer organic cotton, and a bleach and perfume free promise. Cotton tends to be more absorbent than alternatives like bamboo, to help prevent any leaks. Depending which brand you choose, there are winged and non-winged versions with different sizes to suit the heaviness of your flow.

Lady shopping for biodegradable sanitary products

Biodegradable tampons



These are much like the traditional tampon, but 100% plastic free and biodegradable. Often made from cotton with a paper wrapper and come in a range of sizes to suit the different stages of your period. Some brands use organic cotton, bleach and chemical free. They cost just a little more for a pack than their plastic counterparts, without the worry that they’re going to sit in landfill for the next 500 years!

The best sustainable period products


Now you’ve got the lowdown on how you can make your period greener. If you’d like to know more, a selection of products have been put to the test in the article below.

24/7 online GP service


If you have any health concerns relating to your time of the month, Simplyhealth’s 24/7 online GP service is there for you. Just visit www.simplyhealth.co.uk/gp for more information.

Woman with arms around two friends on a hike

 

Related guide

 

A guide to women's health

Other articles around women's health, including menopause and pelvic health, written with the support of the Lady Garden Foundation.