Sunday 8 October 2017

How To Have A Less Plastic Period?

Maybe it's a British thing but talking openly about bodily functions like periods has always been something I've felt strange about doing, however after my Natural Cycles review chatting openly about contraception I figured it shouldn't be embarrassing to be honest about these things. After all, roughly half of us will experience periods at some point during our lives and they can be incredibly impactful on our day-to-day life.

Recently a colleague and I were discussing what happens to tampon applicators once they have been used. Seriously - is there a sea of tampon applicators in a landfill site somewhere that we don't know about? Last time I checked, the biggest tampon brand name I can think of used plastic applicators and when you think about the sheer volume they sell every day, that are used and thrown away every day, it is a scary thought. When you consider that up to 90% of plastic bottles we use are still not recycled, I'd be willing to bet that very few tampon applicators are either - not to mention the plastic sanitary products are wrapped in, both individually and the outside packaging.

Of course, I know we don't like to talk about the impacts of plastic that is deemed as disposable - we all like to think our household waste is magicked away free of consequences to our planet - but if we all were to make some small, conscientious changes to reduce our use of plastic, the combined impact would be huge, to protect our land and oceans from further being filled up with plastic that will never biodegrade. So today I want to chat about some of the changes I have made to stop adding to the plastic applicator mountain that is growing in my mind, and the reasons I have found these changes to be better for my own body as well as the planet.

*I will add a disclaimer now that this post features periods and sanitary products so if you are shy of these subjects please be aware that this post will not be for you.

For a couple of years now, I've used organic cotton tampons as my weapon of choice: the reason for switching to organic being that I learnt the absorption works both ways. Non-organic tampons generally use cotton grown with pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers, can contain chemical fragrances, and are usually bleached with chlorine. The vagina will absorb anything put into the body, and the dioxin from the chlorine bleaching of the tampon has been linked to endometriosis or even cancer, whilst plastic from the applicator contains phthalates which are endocrine disruptors. While we arguably still receive high exposure to many of these chemicals in our environment and household products, it left me feeling uneasy to know they were literally being absorbed into my body for 8 hours at a time. Additionally, some of these chemicals can be linked to itching and irritation or infection due to allergies to fragrances and chemicals within these tampons, as well as hormone imbalances and infertility. (Not to mention the vagina is self-cleaning and is best left un-intefered with chemicals which can mess up the delicate pH balance.) So, I'd certainly say organic tampons are much better (and hardly more expensive) than non-organic tampons, both for your body and for the planet as organic farming is so much kinder to the environment and communities surrounding farmland. However, they are still disposable and it is debated whether to compost them in case of cross contamination and spreading of disease - for this reason I began to learn more about menstrual cups.

Menstrual cups are the future, I've been told it by those who've used them and now it's my time to spread the word. Made of medical grade silicone, the cup sits inside the vagina and collects blood in a way that is not unlike a tampon. It can be rinsed and reinserted every 4 to 8 hours and when cared for correctly they can last years. However, unlike with tampons, the cup is suitable for all stages of the cycle and does not contribute to dryness as tampons can. There are many different brands of menstrual cup: I have a Mooncup largely because I've heard only good things from those who have used them, and also because this was the brand stocked by my local independent health shop who I prefer to support over shop giants. Learning to use a menstrual cup is no different to trying tampons for the first time: once you've got the hang of it, it becomes second nature - I would advise reading instructions thoroughly first and giving yourself plenty of time. The initial cost of a menstrual cup is more than a packet of tampons and pads initially, but will save plenty of money in the long run as you can rely solely on the cup for years if you choose to, not to mention the benefits it can have for the health of you and your environment.

However, not everybody is comfortable using sanitary products that are used within the body, and there is the ever-present (though very small risk) of TSS. I loathe standard-issue sanitary towels as they are uncomfortable, plastic, and stifling but I've recently found reusable sanitary towels and they're completely different to the disposable kind: far more comfortable, environmentally friendly, and much more attractive. I was sent a pad to try out from Honour Your Flow, a small ethics-focused British company who make all kinds of textile sanitary products. The products are made by women and are designed to support women. Alongside the regular pad I was sent, I also purchased a thong liner. I photographed them both brand new prior to using (for obvious reasons) for those who have never seen a reusable pad before - I hadn't! They are available in an array of colours and fabrics, I was sent the "Primal Pink" (pink and red tie dye) at random and opted for a black liner.

Left: the back of the pad and popper fastening // Right: the surface of the pad.

These particular pads are made of organic cotton velour fabric using eco-friendly dyes and can be washed at up to 60 degrees. They are made in all different shapes and sizes for women of all sizes with every type of flow. They do not give the same hotness and itchiness which can be experienced with plastic-based disposable pads, nor do they contain harsh chemicals which can irritate the skin. Instead they wash really well and allow the body to breathe! They are comfortable, not too bulky, and personally I've found the regular pad perfect for at night, whilst the liner is useful for when my period is nearly over and a menstrual cup is no longer necessary. I definitely plan to buy at least one more pad of both kinds as now that I've tried reusables I don't ever want to reach for a disposable again - I'm so pleased I tried these and would honestly recommend them to those who aren't fazed by the idea of washing them.

Whatever your sanitary product of choice is, I hope this post might have inspired you to look at how environmentally friendly your period is, and whether there is anything you could change to reduce waste and benefit your body. If you aren't convinced of the importance of cutting down on waste, I highly recommend watching the documentary "A Plastic Ocean" (currently available on Netflix) which goes into more detail about the horrific impact of disposable plastics on our beautiful planet. Have you tried either of these products, or would you try either? I'd love to hear your own experiences and recommendations!

*Please note the Primal Pink Regular Pad was sent to me free of charge from Honour Your Flow for consideration of review. This post is not sponsored and all views are my own.


  1. Interesting post, Hannah. I never realised that you could get organic tampons, and it never even occurred to me that tampons can be full of all the pesticides and chemicals used in growing cotton. It's worrying that that's even legal! I have heard of reusable sanitary pads before, though, and I think they're such a good idea.

    Another thing women can do to reduce the amount of plastic being used is to use non-applicator tampons, which also require less packaging- although I'm sure it's an option many women wouldn't be comfortable with. xx

    1. It is seriously concerning isn't it! Especially as I remember once upon a time I used to use some "fresh scented" tampons (for some unknown reason, just thought it sounded nice?!) as if they weren't laden enough with chemicals as it was! The brands of organic tampons I've used previously have always been non-applicator though you're completely right and I should have mentioned it (however I do find I am less comfortable using them in public as I'm a bit of a germaphobe) whereas a cup can be left for longer without needing emptying! xx

  2. Hi Hannah!
    I loved this post.
    I'm already using a moon cup, although more because it causes less waste and is much kinder on the purse strings, and was looking into reusable sanitary pads.
    I actually hadn't thought about the sheer volume of applicators that must be hanging around.
    I just want to say that this post is absolutely brilliant and I've already been looking into Honour Your Flow products, so thank you!


    1. Hi Stacey! I'm so glad you liked this post. I'm so pleased I found Honour Your Flow and they have genuinely improved my experience with pads so so much! I'm so glad to hear from somebody else that uses a Moon Cup too, it makes me feel less alone and also so much happier to know others care about these other factors too! xx

  3. This is such an interesting, informative post, Hannah! I love Honour Your Flow's reusable cotton pads but I haven't tried their sanitary products yet - I think this has given me the kick up the arse to finally place an order xx


    1. Personally, I've found them to be amazing and I really recommend them! You likely are already signed up to their mailing list if you have the makeup wipes, but if you're not, they keep doing great sales on there which might be handy when placing a first order! xx

  4. I'm still desperately wanting a mooncup! I've heard so many good things about them! Also please can you point me in the direction of organic tampon brands? I generally just use whatever is available in supermarkets from convenience, but I don't like the thought of how full of chemicals they are. Also, they may want to rethink having red tie-dye on the pad...


    1. Previously I've used Cottons and Naturals. Haha, if red isn't your jam (ahem) I also just bought a blue tie dye and a black one?! xx


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