How to have a zero-waste period

REduce waste

For many years women have depended on disposables to get them through that ‘time of the month’, but now there are more sustainable sanitary options on the market than ever before. Hannah Turner looks at some reusable period products that have broken the monthly single-use cycle. 

I was having breakfast with some colleagues recently and somehow we got onto the topic of periods and then the war stories started to flow. 

Almost everyone at the table had experienced a ‘situation’ at some point and mostly from disposables that didn’t do the job. 

When I was growing up there weren’t a lot of options in the hygiene aisle; only panty liners, pads and tampons all wrapped in plastic packaging. 

There also wasn’t a lot of education around period products and the impact they were having on the planet, they were just something you would smuggle into the bottom of your shopping basket like a dirty little secret. 

According to the Recyclopaedia around 300 million tampons are sold in Australia every year, and the average woman uses up to 12,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime.  

It’s estimated that for each period we throw away the equivalent of one shopping bag full of plastics, fibres and wrappers, which can take up to 500 years to break down

The good news is there are more sustainable sanitary alternatives on the market than ever before. 

Meet the menstrual products that are making zero-waste periods possible 

Hands holding menstrual cups
Menstrual cup

Menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone – which is a safe and hypoallergenic material. Inserted like a tampon; the cup creates a suction, collecting fluid and preventing leaks. They can be worn for up to 12 hours, then you empty it, wash it, and reuse it. The best part is the cups can last up to 10 years with proper care making them the most sustainable option. Read more at Biome’s blog.

A lady putting on period underwear
Period-proof underwear

They’re not your average pair of underwear. These leak-proof undies are made with high quality, tech-savvy fabrics and breathable, antimicrobial fibres with a stain-resistant, moisture-wicking, odour-fighting lining, making them a very popular period product. Most brands offer a range of briefs tailored to your flow. Check out this list of sustainable period underwear brands if you’re not sure where to start.

Reusable pads

If you prefer pads then why not give the reusable variety a go? Reusable pads actually have higher absorbency levels than disposable pads and liners and feature a special waterproof coating on the inside to prevent leaks. If you follow the laundry care instructions they can last at least 2-3 years, meaning you won’t need to pop to the shops for period products for a very long time! 

Share the Dignity drive

This month you can pay some reusable period products forward with Share the Dignity’s latest drive to end period poverty. Over 11,800 reusable sanitary items have been donated so far, including reusable pads, period-proof underwear and menstrual cups. If you’d like to get involved you can donate at Woolworths stores or send reusable products to their office in Sandgate.
For more information on making your menstruation journey more sustainable, check out Biome’s FAQs sheet , or visit the Sustainable Period Project.

The author

Hannah Turner

Hannah works at Brisbane Sustainability Agency in the marketing team delivering sustainable events to help create a clean and green city. When she’s not in the office you’ll most likely find her thrifting at an op shop in Brisbane somewhere!

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