Our World... February
Following from last month's post, this is my update for February on what I have swapped over to be more environmentally friendly! This month I tried Re-useable Sanitary wear - sounds yucky right? let's see how I got on...
What is it?
There are loads on the market of different types of products suiting all different types of budgets. I decided to try the cup and re-useable pads. I have to say I was nervous about trying both of them.
The cup replaces tampons. It is medical grade silicone cup with a little stick on the end, you fold, insert and let it do its job of collecting and then pull it out by the stick and empty when needed.
The re-useable pads work just like sanitary towel pads, only instead of throwing them away, you collect in a breathable wash bag and then put them through the washing machine. There is also the option of buying period pants which collect your waste and then you wash them out. These are more pricey around £30+ a pair and you would need a few pairs so I decided to go for the pads.
Why do it?
To save our planet - little changes can have a big impact! Sanitary wear generates more than 200 000 tonnes of waste per year. 11000 pads/tampons used per individual, per lifetime. They are not easy to manufacture, the carbon footprint is high, are made with chemicals and about 90% of a pad is made from plastic. They end up in landfills, easily outliving the person who used the pad!
A cup lasts approx. 10 years. That's a lot of wastage saved, as well as, money to the user. The cotton pads are expected to last up to 5 years, possibly longer (based on 10 rotated pads), also making a big saving on wastage and cost.
How did I know what to buy?
The pads were easy. I bought standard size set with breathable bag in pretty patterned fabric from amazon. There are lots of places online to buy them and can be tailored to your flow. As I have regular flow, it was straightforward for me.
For the cup, there were loads of choices and it was a bit overwhelming. I went to this great website: putacupinit.com and took their quiz, which led me to the best cup for me. They also have lots of great tips on inserting, cleaning and sterilising. It's a really informative site!
Were they easy to use?
The re-useable pads were really easy just a simple push button on the wings. They felt really soft and comfortable. They did a great job and there was no leakage. It was absorbent and waste did not just sit on the pad. It is weird saving them up but the bag is quite pretty and easy to carry in your handbag if you're going out. They came with instructions on how to fold them over to store before washing which was simple and not yucky. I followed the washing instructions, there were no stains and they dried really well. It was a bit weird having sanitary towels hanging up to dry in the house but i guess it takes time to get used to it... They are easy to use but obviously storing, then washing them takes more work then disposable towels.
The cup was scary. I was worried how it would go in, worried I would feel it all the time and then worried I'd never be able to get it out. Thankfully, I need not be worried. I watched a clip on YouTube explaining what I needed to do and it went like clockwork. Also the above website has lots of methods and instructions.
I sterilised the cup in the kitchen which prompted questions from my male teenager who probably wished he hadn't asked. I was surprised how easily it went in and how I didn't feel it. It did the job. I thought I would easily fill up the cup but i didn't. It leaked once but that's because I hadn't put it in properly, it felt strange and then I noticed it not working. It wasn't anything major and easily sorted. I did worry that I wouldn't be able to get it out but I followed the instructions and it just did what it said it would do - phew. The cup I have, means it can be left in for up to 12 hours but you have to take it out for bowel movements.
Cups are not for squeamish. You need to be comfortable with your body as the little stick part is inside - it does not hang down like tampon strings. Obviously you will empty it out of blood and it will need to be cleaned, along with your hand. They are easy to use, offers longer protection but requires more work than a tampon.
Is it worth it?
Yes, I think it's worth it. I think our planet is worth it. I may have 10 years left of menstruating but I don't feel its too late to start now. I can still make a difference and encourage others to do so. It's not that big an inconvienience - its just different. It's about making a choice to do something that will benefit the planet.
If this is too big a step, there are specialist non plastic disposable sanitary wear out there and campaigns that you can join to make all sanitary wear non plastic. It may cost more and won't be as conveniently stocked but it is an alternative choice.