How plastic-free periods can reduce your environmental footprint (and save you some cash too)

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Introducing guest contributor Jasmine Tribe

Jasmine Tribe has worked in shark and ray conservation and education across the world, and voluntarily manages SharkFest UK. She now co-ordinates City to Sea’s campaigns to reduce plastic pollution from source, based in Bristol.

Have you ever swam face-first into a salty period pad? I have - whilst surveying mantas in the Maldives, and I know I’m not the only one! In her recent TED talk surfer Sophie Hellyer mentioned a pantyliner landing slap-down on her surfboard, and there are hundreds if not thousands of members of the #2minutebeachclean community who have picked up countless tampon applicators and pads littering our coastline.

Credit:  Simon Hilbourne  (with permission)

Credit: Simon Hilbourne (with permission)

Did you know that mainstream period pad brands (like Tampax, Lil-lets and Always) contain around the same amount of plastic as four carrier bags, and a tampon made by those same companies is roughly 6% plastic (even before you consider the packaging or applicators)? I don’t know about you, but I do not want any plastic, synthetic fragrances or bleach in my body, let alone in the sea!

Credit:  Jasmine Tribe

Why is this happening? How are so many period products making their way into our ocean?

Believe it or not, many people today are still using the toilet as a bin! Every single day in the UK about 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 pantyliners are flushed down the loo. These items (plus cooking oil and fat, wet wipes, cotton buds, etc) create blockages in the sewer system which leads to overflow into our rivers and seas…

With a staggering 4.3 billion disposable period products used in the UK every year - having serious impacts on our finances as well as our planet - there must be a better way!

Cue… Plastic-Free Periods! A quick google search for plastic-free period options will unveil a diverse array of new, sustainable products hitting the market to help you reduce your waste every single month. Some products (particularly the menstrual cup) don’t just reduce your plastic footprint, but can also save you up to 94% of what you would have spent on disposable products over your lifetime - win-win ☺  

Credit:  City to Sea  (with permission)

Credit: City to Sea (with permission)

Here’s a little summary of the main plastic-free period products available right now:

  • Menstrual cups – can last you up to 10 years and are perfect for being in the water (never again have to worry about that string dangling out your bikini bottoms!), travelling (who wants to carry boxes of tampons and pads around whilst on the move?) and being out and about. This option probably takes the most getting used to so we recommend using our guide or one of the many others available online. From personal experience, I cannot recommend the cup enough!

  • Period pants – internal products like cups or tampons aren’t for everyone, but everyone wears pants right!? Brands like FLUX, Modibodi, WUKA, THINX and Luna Undies have made comfy absorbent underwear available in a variety of styles (even thongs!). These pants come in a variety of absorbencies and should last you about 2 years.

  • Washable period pads – these come in soft cotton, bamboo or fleece and can be thrown straight in the wash after use.  Some brands last up to 10 years and are available in loads of colourful designs.

  • Organic disposable tampons and pads – the same as your ‘conventional’ brand products, only without the bleach, synthetic fragrances and plastic. Regardless of what they’re made of, no period products should ever be flushed down the loo!

  • Reusable tampon applicators – a perfect combo if you’re switching to organic disposables or want to ditch plastic applicators.

Entering the world of reusable period products can be daunting if you’ve used disposables all your life, so to help you work out which product might suit you best we at City to Sea have put together an FAQ’s page dedicated to answering all your questions. You can also find some cheeky product discounts to help you on your way!

Here’s to period care that’s better for our bodies, our wallets and the ocean! More more info and videos about #PlasticFreePeriods check out our website, and feel free to ping me any questions via Twitter or Instagram → @jas_tribe.

PS. I’d like to say a huge thanks to Anglian Water for supporting City to Sea’s Plastic Free Periods and Bog Standard campaigns!



The views and opinions expressed by guest contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ocean Oculus/Samantha Andrews. Although guest contributions are reviewed, Ocean Oculus/Samantha Andrews cannot 100% guarantee the validity/accuracy of guest contributions. Copyright and liability remains with the author. Please see the sites Terms of Use for more information.