Why We Need To Talk About Reusable Menstrual Products

Written by Katherine Martinko 

There’s a lot of talk about plastic pollution on beaches these days, which is a very good thing, but it’s usually restricted to straws, water bottles, grocery bags, disposable cutlery, and such. Rarely mentioned are menstrual products, but they should be. When the UK’s Marine Conservation Society did its annual beach clean-up in 2016, it found 20 tampons and sanitary items along every 100 meters of shoreline.

These items end up on beaches because they are flushed down the toilet and get washed through the sewer system out to sea, despite the “do not flush” warning on every box. Conventional menstrual products contain significant quantities of plastic — the equivalent of four plastic shopping bags per pad and non-biodegradable tampon applicators — which means that traces of each item could linger on Earth for 500 years or more.

Currently, the menstrual education given to young girls in schools (and even at home, if mothers are not familiar with reusables) is heavy on the traditional, disposable products. Girls are given samples and taught to look for products made by big companies like Always or Tampax — and we know how susceptible young people are to brand recognition.

Some groups are working to change this, running programs in schools to “disrupt the current education bias” of these companies. City To Sea is one such group that created the following video. Its goal is to get more women interested in trying reusable menstrual products — reducing waste, maintaining a healthier body, and saving significant amounts of money over the years.

No More Taboo, based in the UK and active with young women in developing countries, tells students of the risks associated with conventional disposable pads and tampons:

“Conventional pads and tampons are not regulated. Many sanitary products contain dangerous chemicals such as bleach and dioxins which are known as human carcinogens. There are currently no regulations over what feminine hygiene companies can put into their products and, therefore, consumers do not know what chemicals they are putting into their body.”

The truth is that many good alternatives exist, but it takes a mental shift to break away from disposable products and give them a try. Washable pads, liners, and menstrual cups are wonderful products that, once incorporated into one’s lifestyle, become totally natural, comfortable, and sensible. But in order to make that happen, all of us have to fight the taboo surrounding any discussion of menstruation and make it more normal. Our daughters’ bodies and the planet will thank us for it someday.

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Chad A
Chad A2 days ago

The cover story on my university magazine is going to be about the controversy over toxins found int he most popular brands of pads in Korea (I am the faculty advisor and do volunteer editing). The lack of coherent standards is pretty shocking. Here is a real opportunity for some creative and talented women (I think we already have too many men taking charge) to put together some more sustainable solutions. Reusable products are becoming more popular here, but women still need more options.

W. C
W. C4 days ago


William C
William C4 days ago

Thank you.

Patrice Z
Patrice Z5 days ago

Good information.

Beverly D
Beverly D6 days ago

Thanks a lot - that sure made my day! Yuk... God bless~

Kalliope M
Kalliope M6 days ago

really glad, I'm out of the rat race...

Sandra Vito
Sandra Vito8 days ago


Renata B
Renata B9 days ago

I am old enough to have started with reusable pads! Feeling very old indeed. Fortunately no more problems in that department! The advantages of getting old lol.

Nicole Heindryckx

It is a good thing to talk about this. However, it would even be much better if you would have referred to some brands, where we can buy them, or on which websites or on what video on YouTube we could find more information. Even if I had a daughter that I would like to recommend it to her, it would take me quite some time to find some decent information about it.....

Nicole Heindryckx

I do not understand that tampons are lying on the beach, directly from our toilets ?? Of course, they should not be flushed, but I just do NOT believe that. Our waste water is collected in big bassins, cleaned by means of bacteria, and finally treated so that it comes out of our taps again. If tampons would end up on the beach, we would find our "personal" daily waste as well, and I have never seen that !!

Don't try tell me about the use of washable pads. When I was a young girl and having my first menstruations, my mother handed me a package of cotton pads. After use, I had to deposit them in a bucket with lid, filed with water and some bleach. Then after 5 or 6 days, they were removed, rinsed several times, and finally were washed together with our bath towels, slips, etc... I still remember the nice smell of the bucket after 2 or 3 days. I would never recommend this yukkee things to anyone, although I do all I can to save plastics, avoid plastic packing etc...

And what about the diapers ?? There are so many more of them. Each baby uses 365 days x 4-5/day x 2,3 years !!! May be something should change here !!!