pile of period products

147: Rethink your use of feminine hygiene products

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ SAVES MONEY

From our guest writer Nawaila in Pakistan 

The disposal of tampons and pads is a significant plastic polluter

We humans are too dependent on plastic when it comes to every aspect of life, and menstruation is no exception.

Our sanitary pads are made up of non-biodegradable plastic and can take hundreds of years to decompose; this leads to environmental and health hazards.

What effects does the disposal of sanitary pads and tampons have on our environment?

  • Marine life can be affected as pads and tampons are often flushed
  • Plastic in pads and tampons can lead to toxic pollution
  • The use of fossil fuels in the plastics’ manufacture contributes to global warming
  • Even if disposed of properly, the volume added to landfill is enormous

The plastic period

According to the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN), about 6% of our tampons and around 90% of sanitary pads contain plastic. According to their estimates, an average woman disposes of approximately 150 kilograms of pads and tampons during her lifetime.

About 45 billion products are used every year and most of them contain plastic. A study conducted by Natracare revealed, for example, that a pack of pads contains the same amount of plastic as five plastic shopping bags.

We need to introduce alternatives to plastic into our daily lives.


Please resolve to dispose of your tampons and pads properly. They should be bagged up (using a non-plastic compostable bag of course) and placed in household solid waste, not flushed down the toilet.

Although the disposal of plastic in this way is still not ideal, it is much better then it entering our water systems and then the marine eco-system.

Better still is to consider the non-plastic alternatives to using pads and tampons

Alternatives to the plastic period

There are several alternatives to plastic-made sanitary products.

1)     Period underwear

Period underwear can be way more comfortable than pads or tampons and they are reusable. Also, there is much less risk of leakage and embarrassment. Some of the best brands that you can try include ModiBodi, Dear Kates and Knix, all of which you can find through a simple internet search at Ecosia.

2)     Cotton pads

Cotton pads are eco-friendly as they are reusable and prevent plastic waste. The material used to make cotton pads is biodegradable. They are also much more comfortable than plastic pads and are made up of organic cotton which is free from harmful preservatives of any kind. Luna Pads, Oko Creations, and Glad Rags are some of the suggested brands for cotton pads.

3)    Menstrual Cups

Using menstrual cups is also one of the most popular ways to a sustainable period. One menstrual cup can last for more than a decade and it also saves you money that you spend on pads and tampons. Unlike tampons, a cup will also prevents infections inside the vaginal wall.

(See also our detailed earlier article about menstrual cups … Ed)

4)    Biodegradable Tampons

Biodegradable tampons are made from plant-based material such as organic cotton. It can take about 6 months for a cotton tampon to decompose under the right conditions and they even add nutrients to the soil. Brands like Natracare and Albany Mae produce high-quality biodegradable tampons.

5)  Washable Pads

Washable pads are very similar to period underwear and can be cleaned after use, preventing any kind of plastic waste.

Whatever alternative you choose, please stop using plastic-based sanitary pads and tampons.

Take action

  1. If you are still using disposable products involving plastics, please make sure they are not flushed
  2. Preferably, please consider switching to a plastic free alternative, there are lots of benefits to this including saving money

You know it makes sense!

This article has been contributed by
Nawaila Imtiaz

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