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Have you ever thought about how many sanitary items end up in landfill? On average, people have 13 periods a year and go through 16-22 period products like pads, liners and tampons per period. And when you think about the fact that once you get your period, you spend the next 30-40 years menstruating, you can use somewhere between five and 15 thousand pads and tampons in your lifetime, most of which will wind up in landfill.
Couple that with the fact that over 90% of menstrual products contain plastic (lining, adhesive strips, packaging); it can also take up to 300-500 years for them to decompose, if they ever do at all. Pretty crazy when you spell it out like that, huh?
The good news is that reusable period products have not only become more user-friendly but more easily available too. You can now buy a variety of period undies, reusable pads, menstrual cups and even period-proof activewear online and in the shops if you're looking to cut down on your environmental impact.
Ahead, we unpack four eco-friendly period product options that you can consider swapping out your tampons or pads for.
1. Period Underwear
Period undies are exactly what they sound like and are an excellent choice if you're looking for a more environmentally friendly option when you're on your period. Most period undies are designed to act similarly to a pad. They have a gusset that's made from extra-absorbent material that soaks up your period over a 6-8 hour period. They also come in a range of absorbancies (light to heavy), a variety of fits (hiphuggers, briefs, bikinis and trunks) and are leak-proof and odour-controlled, so you can be comfortable enough to wear them day and night. Plus, Modibodi has recently released Australia’s only biodegradable period knickers — it gets an environmental thumbs up from us.
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2. Period Cups
Menstrual cups are another great environmentally friendly period product. They're a small, flexible cup-like shape that you wear inside your vagina when you've got your period. You can leave it in for up to 8-12 hours, and it collects your period before you need to empty it, wash it out and reinsert it. Typically made of silicone or rubber, they come in a range of different cup sizes so that you can find the right one for your flow. All period cups come with insertion and removal instructions for that specific cup, so make sure you read them before giving it a go. Don't be too frustrated if you can't get it the first few times; they're tricky but worth it once you get the hang of it. They're also super easy to clean. All you need is a little fragrance-free soap and water between uses (just make sure you've completely rinsed off the soap residue).
3. Reusable Pads
Cloth or reusable pads work the same way your regular pads do, only you can reuse them. While they all come in different flow options (light-heavy), they can differ in the way they're designed. For instance, some have a two-layered approach where a layer clips onto your underwear via some wings and a little press-button, and on top of that layer is another absorbent layer that can be removed and machine washed for a more thorough clean. Others are just one absorbent cloth pad that can also be secured to your underwear and machine washed.
4. Period-Proof Activewear
While period-proof activewear is still a relatively new alternative to pads and tampons, it's slowly making its way into the market and drumming up a bit of buzz. Most period-proof leggings and shorts come with a pad-like liner in the gusset section of the pants. This absorbent layer acts like a pad and is stain and odour resistant. Depending on the design (always read product descriptions and care labels first), you can typically wear period-proof activewear without tampons, liners and pads, and know that they are leak-proof and workout-proof. Once you're finished, you wash them in cold water until they run clear and then pop them in a cold wash.