How to Have an Eco-Friendly & Safe Period?
Author- Shreya Kamath
Editor- Navya Om Agnihotri
After watching David Attenborough’s "A Life on our Planet" documentary, it made me wonder the kind of impact menstrual products would have on our environment. As much as periods are painful for the people who menstruate, it is equally painful for the Earth. The traditional menstrual products accumulate so much waste that it destroys the Earth and increases plastic consumption.
Environmental organizations are protesting the use of plastic in sanitary napkins. Many public awareness efforts promote reusable items, and they usually call it “sustainable menstruation.” Menstruation that is environmentally friendly and responsible is referred to as sustainable menstruation.
Who would have thought that your “time of the month” actually harms the environment somehow?
According to the statistics, your period pad could contain up to 90% plastic (polyester, polypropylene), equal to four plastic shopping bags in one pad. Over the course of a lifetime, each person generates 44,000 bags of period-related plastic garbage.
The majority of today's sanitary pads are composed of non-biodegradable plastic. More than 12 billion sanitary pads are discarded every year, with each female using an average of eight pads per menstrual cycle. Tampons must be changed every four to six hours, although this may be sooner depending on flow. A tampon every 4 to 6 hours equals four tampons each day, building up to 20 or more tampons per period.
Plastic applicators cannot be recycled because of hygienic issues. All this trash is disposed of in sewage systems, landfills, or burnt, all of which are environmentally detrimental. It takes more than 600 years for traditional sanitary pads to degrade. Adding to this, sometimes tampons and pads are flushed in the toilet, therefore, clogging it.
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Several start-ups in India have created sustainable menstrual products in recent years. These sanitary pads are far more pleasant and hygienic than plastic-based sanitary pads because they are independent of chemicals and plastic. These "green" products not only help the environment, but they also help women's health by reducing skin rashes and infections, which are caused by using plastic-based sanitary pads.
One of the main reasons why there has been a slow adoption of sustainable menstrual products is the lack of knowledge and awareness of the drastic impact it can have on the environment. Many people are unaware of the substitutes available in the market hence the resistance against using them. As a result, the next stage is to establish a comprehensive strategy for increasing awareness and use of "green" menstrual products. Every small effort or change taken by you can help bring awareness, and we can together help protect the environment and planet.
SHIFTING TO SUSTAINABLE MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS
Now you may ask, what are the types of sustainable menstrual products available in the market? I have personally only heard about Reusable pads, but it looks like there’s more to it.
Reusable Sanitary Pads
Reusable pads are usually made of cloth, and even though cloth pads are more expensive than disposable pads up, they last a long time. Just imagine not having to buy pads or tampons for the next several years; doesn’t that sound good! Reusable pads are more comfortable and environmentally friendly, and in addition, they save up your money too!
For more of such creative and educational posts on menstrual hygiene and education, kindly head to Pinkishe Foundation's Instagram Page.
Reusable Menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are cost-effective and a one-time investment and they generally last for eight months to even ten years, depending on the care taken for them. When a woman is menstruating, menstrual cups are put into the vagina, but the fluid is stored rather than absorbed, like in the case of pads & tampons. It would be best if you rinsed menstrual cups every six hours in most cases, but they can survive longer. When the menstrual fluid gets exposed to air, it starts creating an odor, but menstrual cups eliminate this problem.
Period pants are becoming to be popularly known as the ruling queen of eco-friendly period products. These serve as a potential substitute to the single-use menstrual products (pads, liners & tampons) that look and feel very much like regular underwear but do the work of absorbing the discharge/ menstrual blood and thus keeps you feeling comfortable and dry. And the best part being, you can even wear it on other days, and since it is absorbent, it very well does the work of a panty liner.
As the name implies, they are meant for disposal; every one of its components comprises sustainable and environmentally beneficial materials, like banana fibres, which degrade considerably faster in landfills and can even be utilized for compost and biogas. They are comparatively softer and pose a lower risk to customers because they do not contain any hazardous ingredients.
In short, eliminating taboos and encouraging menstruators are essential to ensure a long future with sustainable menstruation. Although these products may be comparatively more expensive than those traditionally used, it is critical to realize that it will be even more challenging later if we do not bring about a change now. With global concerns about climate change growing, now is the time to focus even more on producing menstrual products that are both sustainable and environmentally friendly.