In the UK budget this year, it was announced that the 5 per cent “tampon tax” will be scrapped from 2021. For women’s health campaigners Freedom4Girls, it’s a step towards ending “period poverty”, a worldwide issue that affects millions of women and girls who struggle to afford or access safe menstrual protection. Putting women’s hygiene on the political agenda has also been an opportunity to open up other discussions regarding women’s health – namely, the amount of waste it generates.
In the UK alone, period products produce more than 200,000 tonnes of rubbish every year. A single sanitary pad, for example, contains the same amount of plastic as four carrier bags. But eco alternatives are gaining traction. Last year, Sainsbury’s removed plastic applicators from its own-brand tampons – the first company to do so – and a host of brands are upping the planet-friendly options with period pants, menstrual cups and reusable pads.
On learning that period products are the fifth most common plastic waste found on beaches, Rachael Newton came up with Nixit – a menstrual cup whose disc shape allows it to sit comfortably at the base of the cervix, without any suction or pressure. Made of medical silicone, each cup is built to last years – saving up to 2,500 menstrual products from landfill – before biodegrading. letsnixit.com
Each month, 10bn plastic tampon applicators are used across the globe. They will take half a millennium to degrade. In answer to the issue, Londoners Celia Pool and Alec Mills launched Dame – the world’s first reusable tampon applicator. The award-winning design is made from self-sanitising Mediprene – a highly biocompatible medical material with a smooth finish. It will, they say, last for at least 10 years. The brand estimates it has already prevented 300m pieces of single-use plastic going into landfill and is aiming to cut the number of plastic applicators being used in the UK by 15 per cent by 2022. wearedame.co
This brand offers a customisable subscription service, delivering plastic-free menstrual supplies such as biodegradable pads and organic cotton tampons, as well as its reusable Nüdie cup, which, like the Nixit, is made of medical-grade silicone. Ten per cent of profits support women’s health, education and economic empowerment programmes around the world. andsisters.co.uk
Miki Agrawal, her sister Radha and friend Antonia Saint Dunbar set up Thinx after a holiday in South Africa, where they met a 12-year-old girl who was unable to attend school during her period. The pants are constructed with four super-absorbent micro layers and are “designed to replace pads and tampons” – or to be worn with cups for extra protection. Various styles, levels of absorbency and colours are available. shethinx.com
Reusable pads and liners are the USP of Rael, the brand launched in 2017 by journalist Aness An, architect-turned-art director Binna Won and Yanghee Paik, a former movie distributor at The Walt Disney Studios. The organic cotton pads contain five moisture-wicking layers, feature wings that can be adjusted with Rael’s patented snap closure and can be washed and reused up to 120 times. For every Instagram post with the hashtag #HappyPeriodsForAll, the brand will provide a menstrual kit to women who have low incomes, are homeless or live in poverty in Los Angeles. getrael.com