There's a lot of hesitation surrounding reusable menstrual products, specifically reusable pads, because there are valid concerns about proper maintenance and cleanliness. Some people associate disposable period products with being more hygienic than reusable ones, probably because less time is spent actually handling or washing out period fluids, which society tends to stigmatize. Single-use products have been connected with cleanliness and convenience in ways that aren't entirely accurate. We have to navigate the balance between what's safe and clean for us and what's safe and clean for the environment; this ordeal naturally involves tradeoffs. Reusable period products require maintenance, and at first, this maintenance comes across as an inconvenience. However, the multifaceted environmental impact and other benefits may be well worth the transition. Here are three fast facts on reusable pads and sustainability:
Reusable pads can help drastically reduce menstruation-related landfill waste.According to a recent reproductive health indicator report done by the World Health Organization, the average menstrator uses about 5.5 pounds of period products per year. If you were to project that across a womxn’s reproductive years (on average, 15-49 years of age), that's 187 pounds of waste. Yikes. This doesn't even include the weight of the fluids absorbed or collected inside of these disposable period products. Again, a lot of these products are made with plastic and other non-biodegradable materials, so the vast majority of that waste languishes in the environment, unable to be recycled or broken down.
Though they seem to be more expensive at first, reusable pads are more cost-effective than disposable pads over time.Similarly to menstrual cups and period-absorbing underwear, menstrual reusable pads have a tendency to cost more than their disposable counterparts on the front end. However, they save users money as time passes. For example, according to her article on The Penny Hoarder, contributor Ariana Palmieri shares why she chose to switch to reusable pads and why her wallet thanks her for it. In a more detailed breakdown of the financial aspect, Palmieri notes that she used to spend $8/month or $96/year on disposable pads, not including taxes. She bought a full set of 11 reusable pads for $80, and the set is meant to last 2-5 years, depending on maintenance quality. After crunching the numbers, she further discovered that if she just keeps them for 2 years, she’ll save $192 on disposable pads; if she keeps them for 5 years, she’ll save $480, which is no small sum. #Moneymatters, am I right?
Reusable pads are not made with potentially toxic materials.90% of pads are made with plastic, which, as aforementioned, is not good for the environment. But even beyond that, the vast majority of disposable pads are also made with cotton. Sounds innocent enough, right? Cotton is biodegradable and environment-friendly, right? Nope. Not at all. In fact, according to the Rodale Institute, 16% of the world’s pesticides are used on cotton. Many of those residual chemicals stay on the cotton as it is processed for commercial use. To make matters worse, period products, particularly the materials inside pads are often bleached with chlorine dioxide. As chlorine dioxide breaks down, bioaccumulative toxic byproducts like dioxin form. This process doesn’t conveniently start when you’re done using a disposable pad. Some disposable pads take the additional step of adding dyes and fragrances, making certain individuals susceptible to allergic reactions. In essence, reusable pads aren’t only better for the environment, but they are also safer to expose to our most intimate area.
We have to remember that different products are going to work for different people. At LILAS Wellness, we ultimately want for you to pursue whatever products work best for you. But as you make decisions for your menstrual health, we encourage you to be cognizant of how products you use impact the environment. This is not solely a matter of privilege and period equity. This is a matter of the choices we can make about our own health journeys and also help us to recenter, destigmatize, and embrace menstruation as a regular aspect of our lives.