Lesley’s Guide to an Eco-Friendly Period

Let’s talk about periods and the environment!

We are all grown up’s here so I know we can have an open and frank discussion about a perfectly natural biological event, that happens to around 50% of the population and the environmental impact that this is having. SCC’s workforce is made up of 70% of people identifying as female so this is a fairly relevant topic for the majority of us.  

Most menstruating people will have periods throughout their lifetime starting from as young as 8 and lasting, for some, into their 50s until menopause.

Lots of people are still using disposable period products. These products will end up either flushed down the toilet or in landfills. A google search shows that disposable pads are made from:

  • Bleached rayon
  • Cotton
  • Plastics
  • Fragrance and antibacterial agents

Considering these products are in contact with some of our most sensitive areas, some may find it odd that producers are generally reluctant to reveal the exact composition of their products, I know I do!

The non-biodegradable aspects of these products will sit in landfills for thousands of years and when you consider that the average menstruating person will use between 10-16 thousand pads, pantyliners and tampons in their lifetime, that’s a significant contribution to landfills.  

Not only is there the environmental cost of disposable period products but one that impacts on your bank balance too!

Setting aside the ‘Tampon Tax’ issue (where period products are currently taxed at 5%, therefore costing people who menstruate more for an essential product) over a lifetime you will spend an average of £4,800 on period products that equates to an average of £128 per year – this will vary depending on your regularity, start age and menopause age.

So, what can we do about it? how can we reduce our waste on something we have little control over as well as help out our bank balance? Fortunately, there are some amazing alternatives out there:

Menstrual cup

Sometimes known as a moon cup, a menstrual cup is a small, foldable, reusable device made from silicone, rubber or plastic that collects, rather than absorbs, the menstrual blood when inserted into the vagina. A great alternative for those who prefer to use tampons, these have been around since 2002.

You can pick one up from the supermarket or online from £20. They last for years so a fairly small investment leading to some amazing savings for the environment and your bank balance. They are easy to clean and store ready for your next cycle.

If a cup doesn’t float your boat why not try reusable pads


Made from washable reusable fabrics including cotton, flannel, bamboo or hemp. There are a whole host of different options out there for reusable pads with different material compositions and designs. They are a great alternative for those who prefer pads as they are perfume free and people find them more comfortable and less irritating than conventional disposable pads.

Cloth menstrual pads made a comeback in the 1970’s with their popularity increasing over the last few years, there are some fantastic options out there to fit into your lifestyle and preferences.

Cloth pads range from £5 – £10 per pad, depending on where they are made and from what materials they are made from and should last years, depending on how you care for them.  You will want to select different pads to fit in with your flow throughout your period. Washing them is easy most reusable pads can be popped in with your normal wash (though fabric softener will reduce absorbency so you will want to avoid it when washing these).

If you don’t think a cup or reusable pads are for you then let’s look at reusable pants


Made of a variety of fabrics including bamboo, microfibre nylon or merino. These are relatively new to the period scene; some products have been around since 2014 but they have been receiving a lot of hype and promotion recently. They look and feel like regular underwear and some can hold up to 2 tampons worth of blood. They appear to be good for those who have light flow or as back up for unexpected periods (shout out to those who have irregular periods) and used as back up for cups and tampons for those with a very heavy flow.

The pants range from £10 – £25 and you will want to have a few at your disposal, one site suggested they lasted 6 months to a year and others last a bit longer depending on use and care.

As you can see there are some great alternatives out there, although all the options are less ‘convenient’ than disposable options, I personally believe it’s a small price to pay to help the environment and my bank balance!

Google is a wonderful thing so if you are thinking about making a swap do some research on each of the products so you know which one is the best for your lifestyle, your body and your flow. Personally, I like to shop local and reduce my air miles so I buy from UK companies – you may pay a little more but it’s a little better for the environment when you haven’t got to ship in from outside of the UK.

Also, if you go for reusable pads or pants you don’t have to switch all over straight away, buy one or two a month to build up your collection and use in conjunction with disposables until you have enough, this will help to spread the initial outlay cost.

If you’d like to discuss anything eco preiod related, please drop me an email at lesley.hood@suffolk.gov.uk

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