It was the realisation of the Tampon Tax that started my search for sanitary alternatives.
I felt cheated by the fact that I was paying money I was unaware of for the ‘luxury’ of bleeding. I actually made this lower waste change about six months before I officially started my zero waste Journey. It’s a big change.
Society has lead us to think reusable sanitary alternatives are a bit, well, weird
A few people I’ve mentioned reusable period items to are a bit freaked out by the idea. We’ve gotten used to the fact that sanitary products should be disposable and that they fit in line with other medical waste – but that's missing the point on so many levels.
By opting for reusable products I don’t leave blood anywhere as it either goes straight in the toilet, or I just wash it off the pad. Nothing is left to rot in landfill or swim amongst the fishes. The waste produced isn't toxic, it just needs to be cleaned off relatively quickly, for hygiene, but more to stop the staining of the product.
Like with so many other products, advertising has led us to believe that we NEED these products. Not only to be clean, but also to participate in sporting activities, go out on dates and function as a human; you know which kind of adverts I’m referring to.
Just like so many other disposable products, we have perfectly awesome alternatives, which work as well, if not better.
They will cut out a HUGE amount of your outgoing waste in one go
Once I'd made this change, everything else zero waste wise seemed more than achievable. That's not to say that it was a big momentous change – it was more that a common, everyday (or every month, should I say) reoccurrence could be changed quite easily, making a big difference to my waste and my bank balance.
Over a lifetime, we could spend up to £18,450 on period related products.
So, the products themselves
Anyone who has ever used a loo at a service station around the UK will have seen this one being advertised.
It's what I use, and honestly, I love it. I can sleep with it in, exercise with it in, and do all of my other daily activities.
The silicone is medical grade and can be boiled clean after each use. Here's the best part: if you get to a point where you no longer need your cup as you’re in the menopause or similar, you can send it back to the company for recycling.
There are two sizes, and these are usually dependant on if you’ve delivered a vaginal birth or atomically have a larger cervix.
Initially, I did have to get used to the moon cup. Mostly this was because it sits in the vagina a lot lower than a tampon, and needs to be inserted after having a quick rinse in under the tap.
I’d recommend to wear a cotton pad (I'll touch more on reusable pads shortly) when getting used to a period cup, mostly for your own piece of mind and to test it's in right.
If the price is the off-putting part of this product, I’d suggest searching other period cups – there are plenty out there!
I made my own set of these pads out of left over fabric scraps. I have three different thicknesses, dependant on where I am in my cycle and the wings fasten together with a small button.
I can do literally everything I would do with a disposable pad on, there's absolutely no difference. The only change is that they’re actually comfier! This is probably due to the fact that disposable pads contain chemicals and sticky parts which can get stuck where you don’t want them to. We sell these in our shop!
I typically use cotton pads when I have a lighter flow, which makes cleaning a lot easier. People who use cotton pads when they have a heavier flow recommend putting the pad straight into salted water for a soak, or using a resealable plastic bag to take it home in.
That might sound a little messy, but as long as the pads are changed frequently, all the blood will be absorbed in the pad and it won't be messy at all.
When researching cloth pads, I remember a woman in an online forum saying “Honey, your grandmother bled on cloth, and she did just fine.”
I don’t actually use sea sponges, so can’t give too much of an accurate review.
Sea sponges are the most natural form of a tampon. If the thought of putting anything manmade up your vagina makes you squeamish, this is the one for you. They're an old method and the most natural of all the options.
I don’t use this one either, so likewise, I can’t give an accurate review.
Thinx are a brand of reusable period pants, which you wear throughout the day and change and wash in the evening. I love the idea of these, but I'm put off by the fact that multiple would have to be purchased – and they’re not the cheapest!
Their latest product launch has been a 100% cotton pair, making them better for the environment and easier to dispose of.
Like with most things zero waste, there really isn’t a ‘correct’ method to use. Anna and I have tried a few different ones before settling for our favourite!