Menstrual Cycle: A Guide To Make It More Sustainable & Free From Plastic

How and which alternatives to choose to reduce disposable and improve the environmental impact during the cycle. There are alternatives to traditional sanitary pads that help in an incredible way to reduce waste and produce less waste during the menstrual cycle, but how and which ones to choose?  

Here is a guide designed for women ( but also for men who are interested in understanding something ) in which we talk about all the pros and cons of washable sanitary pads, menstrual cups and absorbent underwear, the doubts, costs and environmental impact of these. devices, but above all how and how much they can make us more aware of our body and our cycle.

Absorbents And Environmental Impact: Let’s Talk About Numbers

We started with a question: is it possible to understand how much plastic waste comes from products destined for the cycle? It is tough to answer: partly because they are labeled as medical waste and do not have to be tracked, partially because their research is scarce. The read estimates are nothing short of shocking. Think that a single person subject to menstruation uses between 5 and 15,000 tampons and sanitary pads, most of which end up in landfills. 

The pads are packed in plastic, encased in plastic applicators, with plastic cords, and may even have a skinny layer of plastic in the absorbent part. The absorbents incorporate even more, from the leak-proof and odor-proof base to the synthetic substances that absorb fluids to the packaging. It is easy to deduce how removing the plastic from these items becomes doubly a challenge in terms of ” design “and above all for our habits so deeply rooted in culture, shame, science, and much more.

Which Ecological And Sustainable Alternatives To Choose For The Cycle

Menstruation is an inevitable reality that you have to “deal with” (fortunately, we would add ). Before the twentieth century, women certainly had a more do-it-yourself approach, where all things for everyday use were reused to create similar sanitary pads or tampons. Scraps of fabrics, strips of bark and whatever was available still left a lot to be desired in terms of comfort and hygiene. Often bulky and anything but “invisible”, they had to be washed, dried, and then automatically placed in full view to the public, a rather uncomfortable situation given a society’s ideologies that demonized the menstrual cycle.

To date, these embarrassing situations are partially resolved, even if it is often difficult to combine the freedom of the body with modern stereotypes, which sometimes seem to still row against sustainability. So, are there natural alternatives to traditional sanitary towels, both internal and external, capable of making our choices more ecological, sustainable and – why not – different and more comfortable during this particular period? The answer is yes (fortunately), and essentially, the choices are among these 6, which you can find out in more detail by continuing to read the article: 

  1. Absorbents in ecological and biodegradable cotton
  2. Washable textile pads
  3. Absorbent underpants
  4. Menstrual cup
  5. Menstrual disc
  6. Natural sponge for the cycle

Absorbents In Ecological And Biodegradable Cotton

  1. Pros: they are the ideal alternative for those who want to start with a more sustainable approach without upsetting their habits excessively—ecological materials not treated with whiteners, toxic or potentially allergenic products and fully compostable.
  2. Impact on the environment: usually, the packaging includes less plastic than traditional ones, and the material is mainly made of natural cotton.
  3. Cons: even if more ecological, they are consistently disposable products.

Washable Textile Pads

They are used as normal external absorbents, with the advantage that they can be washed and utilized practically indefinitely.

  1. Pros: long life (about 3 years) and significant savings (after the shopping to start), especially for the environment. 
  2. Impact on the environment: indeed a more sustainable and durable choice than disposable waste
  3. Doubts: how can We use them when I’m away from home and need to change? Don’t worry, just put them in a wet or waterproof bag. 

Absorbent Underpants

They are washable, reusable panties produced with a specific material capable of absorbing even the most abundant flows. 

  1. Pros: comfort comes first (just like wearing regular underwear), combined with the total absence of need for disposable pads. After a first investment, you save a lot in the long run and reduce plastic. 
  2. Impact on the environment: they generally last 2 to 3 years and are made of fabric, not plastic.
  3. Doubts: the same goes for washable sanitary napkins, even if potentially more “uncomfortable” as a change.

Menstrual Cup

  1. What it is: Small cup-shaped silicone device to be inserted internally to collect menstrual blood. 
  2. Pros: comfortable, practical and easily sterilized, a cup can last up to 10 years, and in addition, it helps you become more aware of your body.
  3. Impact on the environment: drastically reduces (not to say annihilates) plastic consumption. 
  4. Doubts: it is not easy to enter into this perspective, but scepticisms aside, it is an alternative to try.

Menstrual Disc

  1. What it is: cousin of the cup, it comes in the shape of a disc with a silicone ring that allows perfect adhesion to the vaginal wall without creating the “sucker” effect. 
  2. Pros: practical, sustainable and highly long-lasting (just like the cup), with the difference that it is possible to have sex while using it. 
  3. Impact on the environment: If treated well, even this device can last up to 10 years. Let’s do the math!
  4. Cons: as with the cup, you have to learn to insert it correctly and, above all, feel it comfortable and comfortable. 

Natural Sponge For The Cycle

  1. What it is: the oldest and most natural tampon in existence. It is very absorbent and usable even during sexual intercourse. It is possible to adapt it in size to your anatomical needs. After about 5 hours (depending on the flow), it should be changed, replaced and adequately washed. 
  2. Pros: it has a variable duration from 3 to 6 months. It is 100% natural and biodegradable.
  3. Impact on the environment: ZERO is the greenest alternative that exists. 
  4. Cons: it must be sanitized before each use with water and vinegar and is not recommended in case of vaginal infections, after which it must permanently be changed.

How And What To Choose Based On Your Flow And Habits

The essential questions to ask yourself before opting for one choice rather than the other are essentially three:

  1. What kind of flow do you have?
  2. What are your habits? Am we often away from home for a long time?
  3. What makes you most comfortable?

One of the advantages that can be found using these devices is discovering and awareness of one’s body and one’s menstrual cycle.  The focus we want to push you to think about is to abandon the patterns. You don’t have to use a single solution, but a wise choice may be to opt for a mix of these systems. One day you are away from home for a long time, and you don’t feel like wearing a cup? Use a classic sanitary napkin. The next day you are at home, but you are undecided between absorbent pads, absorbent panties or cups? There are no rules: feel free and let your body feel free.


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