Here are some zero waste feminine care ideas, if you prefer to avoid plastic disposable tampons and pads (did you know that some tampons are also tested on animals?) Choose from menstrual cups, washable sanitary pads or organic cotton disposables. A Girl’s First Menstrual Cup & Steriliser has a lifespan of 15 years. Made from medical-grade biodegradable silicone, it’s a safe and eco alternative to tampons and pads. Do not use menstrual cups (or tampons) within 6 weeks of giving birth.
Medical Silicone Menstrual Cups
The Nudie Period Cup was created by a mother-daughter duo in London. Made using naturally occuring soft medical-grade silicone, the cup can be recycled at end of life. Free from latex and toxins, even the smallest cup has the capacity of 3 mini-tampons.
Avaiable in small (for under 18s), medium (for 18 to 30 who have not given birth vaginally) or large (age 30 plus or those who have given birth vaginally), each cups includes a helpful guide and small cotton bag, for storage. 10% of profits go to help tackle period poverty across the globe.
Medical Silicone cups like Grace & Green (or & Sisters) work like tampons, but collect (rather than absorb) menstrual blood, so tend to hold more, but still empty as usual. They take some getting used to, but are far more eco-friendly and with care, can last years with one purchase (just boil at the end of each cycle, and empty out in public bathrooms). Medical silicone is better than latex, which is not suitable for allergies. Sold in 2 sizes (depending on childbirth history and age), just trim the stem to fit, on receiving.
Talula Cup are sold in different colours, so you know the right one to choose, based on age and childbirth history.
&Sisters (also sold at Natures Health Box (UK) is a brand of sustainable menstrual health products, founded by a mother and daughter. Here you can find organic cotton tampons and menstrual cups, plus a nontoxic period stain remover, and washable organic cotton period pants. Do not use tampons for at least 6 weeks after giving birth.
The company was founded by two women with expertise as entrepreneurs and buyers, who wished to create a site where people could care for their bodies, while caring for the planet. This certified B Corp company does all it can, to reduce the impact environmentally of period products:
- The eco-applicator tampons are made from biodegradable cardboard, all wrapped in recycled paper. They feature organic cotton fibres and thread.
- The pads are made from organic cotton, with extra-long wings for nights. The medium pads with wings sit comfortably in undies, and feature an organic cotton top sheet, biodegradable plant-based waterproof back sheet and biodegradable purse pack wrapper.
- The Nüdie Cup is a menstrual cup made to rival tampons, and is easy to use, once you know how. Made from hypoallergenic soft medical-grade silicone, there are no leaks, odours or fibres, and no strings. One purchase should replace up to 400 disposable tampons or pads, and you can wear it for up to 10 hours.
- Nüdie Period Pants are made mostly from organic cotton (they contain a little elastane, so launder in a microplastic catch bag, to stop plastics escaping to the sea, in the washing machine). Each pair absorbs the same amount of blood as 4 tampons, and can be worn, washed and used again (also good for post-partum). Usable for up to 4 years, do not use fabric conditioner, bleaching agents or tumble driers, as these will reduce absorbency. They last around 10 hours, although people with IUD/IUS may need to change them more frequently. Rinse in cold water before normal washing. For hygiene reasons, returns and refunds not accepted, if you order the wrong size.
Washable Sanitary Pads
Not as yucky as they sound, these work just like cloth nappies. After use, just rinse with cold water, then throw them in the wash. Most are made from cotton (for any with synthetics, use a Guppyfriend to avoid microplastic escaping in the washing machine). Available in pretty patterns, some brands also offer zipped bags for transport. One pack should last you years. As they have no plastic, they are far more comfortable in hot weather. And often using disposables with plastic makes you think your cycle is heavier than it really is (a lot of the liquid is just condensation). Switch to these, and you may find you only actually have pretty light periods.
&SISTERS Organic Cotton Pads with Wings are natural and biodegradable, for a super comfortable fit. After use, just dispose of responsibly, where they will naturally biodegrade. Premium pads for sensitive skin, they are made with breathable fabric, that is woven for maximum leak protection. They also have a bio-film waterproof back sheet and wrapper, and individually wrapped with no chemicals, perfumes or toxins.
Available in Medium absorbency for day time and light night flow or Heavy absorbency (for night time and heavy flow days). Sold in packs of 12. Or buy the mixed pack for 6 medium and 6 heavy flow pads. 10% of profits are given to help tackle period poverty across the globe.
Washable Period Undies
LUX offers organic cotton washable period undies. Available in packs of coral and black, each pair lasts around 50 washes. These are like normal undies, but with a washable pad sewn in, just throw in the wash when used. In various styles to suit.
Organic Disposable Tampons & Pads
Plastfree offers beautifully packaged (zero waste) organic cotton towels and liners, if you prefer to use disposables. More comfortable in hot weather too. All tampons have risk of toxic shock syndrome, so change every few hours. Do not use tampons within 6 weeks of giving birth. Talk to your doctor. Although plastic-free, don’t flush these items down the loo, as they will block up the drains. Just bin as usual.
Flo is a brand of eco-friendly disposable tampons and sanitary pads, sold in colourful attractive packaging. Made from bamboo, the range also includes panty liners and liners for sensitive bladders.
Grace & Green make organic cotton disposable tampons with or without applicators, in attractive cardboard packaging. Offering breathable superior protection, they are ideal for sensitive skin and expand gently widthways, for a comfortable fit and 8 grooves to provide enhanced protection and absorption. Responsibly made in Spain with a woven cord, not glued.
&SISTERS Organic Cotton Tampons were created by a mother-daughter duo in London. Used by Olympic athletes and recommended by specialists, these are organic, vegan and plastic-free. Featuring a biodegradable cardboard applicator, the smooth applicator has a soft rounded tip, with the custom design providing all-around expansion and maximum leak protection, whilst being super comfortable and kind to your body.
Hypoallergenic and PH neutral, these eco tampons are good for sensitive skins. No chemicals, synthetics or toxins, just dispose of responsibly, after use. Available in medium, heavy or mixed absorbency. 10% of profits go to help tackle period poverty across the planet. Also as Organic Cotton Naked Tampons. Simply dispose of responsibly, after use. Good for sensitive skin, the tampons are biodegradable (don’t flush them down the loo) with no synthetic chemicals, toxins or perfumes. Choose from medium or heavy flow absorbency.
Alternatives to Conventional Tampons
All tampons have risk of toxic shock syndrome, so change every few hours. Do not use tampons within 6 weeks of giving birth. Talk to your doctor.
Dame makes the world’s first reusable tampon applicators. Made in the UK, it’s made from high quality medical grade Mediprene and medical grade polypropylene, so is easy to clean with inbuilt Sanipolymers with natural antimicrobial characteristics. By using this, you could save another 12,000 disposable applicators from entering our oceans. Use with their own organic cotton tampons or most standard-size non-applicator tampons, it is ergonomically desiged and has a semi-gloss matt finish to be as comfortable as possible. The kit includes a reusable tampon applicator comes with organic cotton tampons. After use, just wash under running water and dry with a clean paper towel. Can be composted after use with biodegradable wrappers made from sustainable wood.
The Flex Company offers something new. It lasts up to 12 hours and forms to the shape of your body. It creates 60% less waste than tampons and is not linked to TSS. 70% of users say it reduces menstrual cramps. It also has a pull tab that breaks the seal for you, ideal for joint mobility issues or disability.
How to Treat Blood Stains Naturally
Blood has protein, so it’s important to not ‘set the stains’ so use cold water to wash at first, before throwing them in the machine or washing by hand. If you need to store used pads in a wet bag, then rinse thoroughly first with cold water. You can buy enzyme cleaners that can work in cold water, or add a cup of white vinegar to the soaking water to help remove stains. Don’t use fabric conditioner for cloth pads (reduces absorbency) and avoid bleach, as it will weaken the fibres. If you use a tumble dryer, don’t do this for stains, as you’ll make them permanent.
Looop can is a cleaning kit for washing menstrual pads for refugees and asylum seekers in financial difficulties. It uses buoyancy to reduce the amount of water required for washing. It costs £3 and lasts 5 years, the average time that a refugee spends in a camp. Therea re around 26 million people who have fled their countries due to conflict, violence or war, and 60% of females suffer period poverty problems, as they spend funding on food or sacrifice pads for baby nappies. Many come from strictly religious countries where tampons are not allowed.
It uses recycled steel cans and the pad’s design uses bamboo terry as the contact layer, bamboo fleece to absorb and PUL as the leakproof layer as they are anti-odour and less likely to cause allergies. It also reduces violence as users don’t have to risk going out late at night, to travel long distances to find a toilet. Add the used bad and add baking soda that is stored inside, then water and immerse and spin. Wait 30 minutes for the blood to disintegrate, then rinse and scrub for 3 times, one pad can be cleaned with just 500ml of water.
Reusable Interlabial Pads
Tabitha Eve Interlabial Pads (above) are made from wicking hemp, and sold in packs of 3 or 5. Just fol or roll, soft and absorbent, soak in cold water if washing, with normal cool load and dry flat. Fabric is not pre-washed so expect shrinkage on first wash. These pads are sometimes helpful for heavy flow that channels through the labia or buttocks, and can be worn alongside menstrual pads.
Don’t ‘Donate’ Disposable Tampons to Africa
Many of the big tampon brands ask you to donate to help send disposable plastic tampons to girls in Africa, so they can go to school. This is greenwash marketing. Often African girls have no access to refuse systems so the plastic sits on landfill and causes pollution and fire hazards. And poverty can cause items to be shared (not good on a continent ravaged with HIV and AIDS).
Instead, donate to AFRIpads, which employs local people to make homemade pads from biodegradable materials like banana leafs, papyrus leaves and paper. A local designer ‘could not stop inventing things’. He was sent to a village to ask what they wanted him to invent. They hit him over the head with a (clean) disposable sanitary towel, and told him to go and invent something better. So he did! Moses has sadly since died, but left a wonderful legacy of creating local jobs and helping girls stay in school.