The GST was removed from most menstrual products in January 2019. This is not before time, as it has been estimated that if you menstruate from about 13 years of age until 51, your period is likely to cost you around $19,000. [i]
But while the financial cost for women may have improved slightly, there is a greater cost to the environment.
Pads, panty liners, tampons, and plastic wrappers & containers all end up in landfill.
Sanitary disposal bins in businesses, offices, restaurants and public bathrooms contain chemicals and need to be transported and emptied by special cleaners.
The average woman uses around 12,000 pads and tampons in a lifetime. This contributes approximately 120 kg to landfill. In Australia, women collectively contribute approximately 18 thousand metric tonnes of sanitary waste to landfill every year. [ii]
This is a cost to the whole community.
In recent times there has been more interest in alternative products that are kinder to the environment.
More women are taking consumer action against climate change and doing their part to lessen pollution of our planet.
There is now a wide range of alternative products available that are less disposable.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Menstrual cup
This is a small, flexible cup made of silicone or latex rubber. Instead of absorbing your flow, like a tampon or pad, it catches and collects it. You just empty, wash with soap and water, and replace. At the end of your cycle, you can sterilize your cup in boiling water and keep it for the next period.
- Softcup menstrual disc
These are similar to a diaphragm in design. Like the menstrual cup, they collect menses instead of absorbing them. They can be worn for up to 12 hours and hold five times the amount of menses as a tampon. They also can be worn during sex and overnight.
- Reusable cloth sanitary pads
The modern reusable sanitary napkin has come a long way from the old-fashioned cloths used by our great-grandmothers. Modern cloth pads utilise snap buttons to keep them in place in your underwear. They are usually made of natural fibres like cotton, hemp and bamboo and generally contain a leak-proof layer
They’re available in a range of sizes, absorbencies, shapes and designs.
- Reusable sea sponge
This is exactly what it sounds like. A sponge (cut to size) is inserted to absorb all menstrual flow. The popularity of this product has increased in recent times, but critics point to dangers associated with bacteria harbouring in a natural product, which has been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome. Also, they can be messy to retrieve when full.
- Period friendly underwear
Thanks to modern advances in fabrics, period underwear uses layers of bamboo, sports merino and microfibre, which are breathable and secure.
Manufactures claim the underwear can hold up to 20ml (two tampons worth on average) of fluid.
There is even a brand of period-friendly exercise leggings available with no visible panty line.
A cursory search of the internet reveals that the alternative menstrual products market offers a variety of options. So as long as you’re not squeamish about the sight of your own blood, your choice of sanitary product can be reusable, reliable and eco-friendly.