Pads and tampons have long been a part of a girl’s monthly shopping. But have you ever stopped and considered that there could be better solutions?
Despite making our lives undoubtedly easier, there are some massive issues with using these disposable period products. We at Imaara have decided that enough is enough – and here’s why.
A Lifetime of Plastic Waste
In an average lifetime, most of us will use between 5 and 15 thousand tampons, crazy right? As pads and tampons have developed over time, so has the amount of plastic that they contain. In the early days, tampons were almost entirely made out of cotton, but now every aspect of both tampons and pads has some form of plastic within it! As they have zero reusability, most end up in landfills and oceans. Did you know that most of the plastic in sanitary products is recyclable, yet it can’t be accepted because of hygiene reasons? It is estimated that a non-organic pad can take between 500-800 years to fully break down… which means it will far outlive whoever uses it!
The Dangers of Microplastics
If you thought the idea of endless sanitary products piling up in landfills was bad, that’s not the end of it. Once exposed to light, the plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces until they eventually become microplastics, which are too small to contain and often end up polluting oceans. A study found that 36.5% of fish sampled in the English Channel contained microplastics, so reducing our levels of plastic waste is an urgent matter. These days everyone is using reusable straws and cutlery, so why are period products last on the list when it comes to sustainable alternatives?
Consider the Carbon Footprint
So we can no longer escape the plastics in disposable period products, but plastics aren’t only bad for the environment after they have been used. Plastic production can have a hugely detrimental effect on the environment. Harvard researchers estimate that on average, a year’s worth of period products results in ‘a carbon footprint of 5.3kg CO2 equivalents’, making it a big contributor to global warming. We are all making an effort to become more sustainable in other aspects of our life, so this is an area that we really need to start addressing.
Do You Really Want That Inside You?
Some pads and tampons also contain chemicals which can be harmful or irritative. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has shown that fragranced and chemically bleached products can contain dioxins and phthalates which cause serious harm to humans, and tampon chemicals are able to pass almost directly into your bloodstream. The World Health Organisation has called dioxins “highly toxic”, that doesn’t sound like something we want to be putting inside our bodies! Phthalates have even been known to disrupt bodily functions, worsening fertility and even lowering our IQ. Consumers deserve products which don’t harm the natural environment OR our own bodies in the process, all of this proves why it is time for consumers to look for safer and more sustainable alternatives; and for the period product industry to start offering them.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome or TSS is probably something that you have heard about at some stage, but how much do you really know about it? TSS is a rare, but extremely dangerous condition caused by harmful toxins and bacteria getting into our bodies. Menstruating women, specifically those who are using tampons for extended amounts of time, have been linked to cases of TSS. Most cases of TSS occur in young women, who may not have been taught the dangers of wearing tampons for extended amounts of time - a lack of access to period education can be fatal, so don’t you think that it is time we started talking about it?
It is not surprising that so many of us frequently go for the most accessible period products, but we also need to start weighing up the risks to our health. It is not natural to inhibit your body’s flow, so it is time that we start looking at ways to manage our periods, rather than concealing them.
Period Poverty and Social Stigma
Another important factor to mention is the high costs and stresses that come from using disposable products. It is estimated that period products cost consumers around £100 per year, and that is no small amount. For a lot of people, this can be a difficult and stressful expense which we have no choice but to face every single month! This problem has been exacerbated by the UK government’s historic tax on period products, deeming the items as ‘non-essential’ (Yep…). This tax was only lifted in 2021, which shows how slow the progress of destigmatising periods has been. Traditionally, period products have focused on concealing this natural cycle, perpetuating feelings of shame and secrecy in purchasing menstruation essentials. One of the world's largest healthcare companies, Johnson and Johnson, even used to sell tampons via hidden coupons and unmarked boxes - it is only in very recent years that select companies have started to rethink their approach to the period 'taboo'. Talking about our periods allows us to educate ourselves, we can learn from others’ experiences and better look after ourselves; also it’s 2021 and we are so over period stigma and hiding our natural bodily functions.
The Safer, More Sustainable Alternative
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some sustainable alternatives are starting to become more widely available, such as period panties, menstruation cups and reusable pads; and it definitely feels like time for change. Alternative period products are starting to appear on the market globally, as brands are increasing their awareness, and pads and tampons feel a little less like our only two options. Many brands are beginning to address the problematic reality of the disposable sanitary industry and recognising that we want to look after ourselves, and our planet.