Wednesday, 18 April 2012

**WARNING- POTENTIAL FOR TMI ALERT** Let's talk about...sanitary protection!

I recommend that if you are easily embarrassed or have a weak stomach (or are male!)you read no further.
I was reading recently about the environmental cost of nappies: they cost a lot to produce, transport and of course they take 200 years to rot down [source]. This means that there are nappies in landfills that have graced my infant bottom from 21 years ago...and the likely enough your pooey nappies will be in there too!

Now, I don't have a child so the issue of the environmental problems that nappies create aren't an important factor to me. However, I came to think that shop purchased sanitary towels are made from a very similar material to disposable nappies which means that they are as bad as nappies for our environment. This encouraged me to do some research about the history of the sanitary towel (it's amazing what you'll do when you are trying to avoid an assignment on postmodernism, isn't it?) and I came across this very interesting site.

Women across the millennia have used what nature provided them to absorb menstrual flow from papyrus to moss. As time progressed sanitary wear became more advanced and many women used washable rags to absorb their monthly flow (which is presumably where, admittedly horrible, phrases such as "on the rag" came from). Really, the streamlined sanitary towel that is easily wrapped up and thrown away is a modern invention. This means that we haven't really found the technology to ensure that they are biodegradable under non-optimal conditions found at land fills. Furthermore, this rise of the discreet sanitary towel has created a form of anxiety around menstruation resulting in the created on perfumed sanitary towels- now forgive me, but having perfume near your reproductive organs can be really bad for you. Sanitary towels also cost a lot and in the UK you have to pay tax on them.

So, as you can see, sanitary towels aren't that great. But what's the alternative? There are tampons of course but they are just as bad as sanitary towels in terms of environmental, health, and financial cost. However, there are also reusable items such as mooncups and femmecup (femmecup also has a scheme where you can buy one cup and send another to the third world) which are receptacles used in the same way as tampons and can last for years if properly cared for. But what I think is the most innovative product is the reusable sanitary towel. They work in the same way as the contemporary sanitary towel but after use they re removed, soaked in a tub of cold water, washed and dried with your normal clothes and are ready for the next use. This reduces the environmental cost as they aren't thrown away or constantly being produced and transported. However, what I think is most innovative about this product is that they are home made- of you're savvy with a sewing machine you can make your own, or if not you can turn to pre-made ones- where many are made by stay at home mother's who are carers and are thus unable to work full time hours so use the making and selling of reusable sanitary towels to supplement their income.  This seller is up and coming in the field and makes reusable sanitary protection for fun.

I hope I haven't bored you with rubbish about re-usable sanitary wear but I do feel it is important that other, more sustainable options, are exposed and discussed.


  1. I can recommend for washable sanitary towels, or fairy hammocks as they like to call them!
    They wash & wear really well, I've been very pleased with them.
    I'm not affiliated with them at all, just a satisfied customer!

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