Zero waste feminine care helps to reduce the waste of feminine care products, which are always a top item found in beach cleans (the plastic breaks down to harm marine wildlife, although you should never flush any kind of feminine care, even biodegradable items, just bin securely). Rather than donate to companies that send plastic tampons to Africa, donate to Afripads, a social enterprise that makes biodegradable pads, and gives jobs to local men and women.
Washable Feminine Care Pads
Washable sanitary pads are usually sold in packs of 6 or 8, worn like normal pads. Soak in the sink for 30 minutes (keep buckets lidded if used), then wash with biodegradable detergent (avoid fabric conditioner, reduces absorbency). Then should last months or years and are more comfortable.
Bloom & Nora’s Washable Pads are ethically made reusable cloth sanitary pads that are made with natural materials, in bright colours and packed in cardboard boxes. Inspired by the early American feminist Amelia Bloomer, a fierce advocate for Victorian Dress Reform! If you’re familiar with TotsBots nappies, this is the same maker.
Washable Period Underwear
Washable period underwear work like washable towels, but the pads are sewn in. After use, soak in the sink for 30 minutes (keep buckets lidded), then wash as normal with biodegradable detergent (again avoid fabric conditioner).
Lux Organic Cotton Period Underwear is sold in 3 styles: thong, bikini or high-waisted. Made from soft breathable cotton, they come in black and coral. Each pack includes 2 pairs with cloth storage pouch. Last up to 50 washes.
Medical Silicone Menstrual Cups
These have moved on from latex and look like a tampon but collect (rather than absorb) menstrual flow, so have less chance of toxic shock syndrome (do not use tampons or menstrual cups if you have recently given birth or advised not to, by a doctor). One purchase lasts years, just sterilise in boiling water for 10 minutes, after each cycle. Most are sold in 2 sizes (depending on age and childbirth history). Just trim the stem to fit, then use like a tampon.
- Grace & Green mostly sells pads and tampons, but also sells a menstrual cup. You could order a few of everything, so you can try out what suits you best.
- Talula Cup is sold in 2 sizes (pink or purple). Profits help menstrual health education in Zambia.
- Mooncup has thousands of fans worldwide, with extensive info on site on how to use it. Sold in a pretty organic cotton drawstring bag.
Other alternatives to tampons are DAME (a self-sanitising reusable applicator that is ordered from the US, but lasts for life) And Flexfits (this sits past the vaginal canal so can’t be felt, lasts for hours and made from polymer). Read their FAQ (it’s recommended by Dr Jane Van Dis, a board-certified medical obstetrician.
Biodegradable Pads & Tampons
If you prefer disposables, these are. But they are made without chlorine bleach, many are organic cotton, and packed in plastic-free boxes. Don’t flush, just bin securely as normal.
- Grace & Green offers organic sanitary pads, tampons and liners, all in attractive cardboard boxes. It also makes a medical grade silicone cup, if you want to mix the two.
- Plastfree offers sets of 20 day or night pads, and sets of 90 liner pads (and maternity pads). The biodegradable back layers have 5 times more absorption.
- Flo offers colourful packaging to sell its tampons (applicator and non-applicator) and pads made from biodegradable and anti-bacterial bamboo. The tampons are wrapped in pretty bio-wrap.
- Lux makes organic cotton period pants, but also sells organic disposable organic cotton sanitary pads. Lux means ‘light’ in Latin, to help tread a smaller footprint.