Reasons You Should Consider Switching to Reusable Menstrual Products

Reusable, sustainable products aren’t new. The menstrual cup was developed around the same time as the cardboard applicator for tampons back in the 1930s. Obviously, the menstrual cup didn’t take off, probably due to less advertising than the disposable tampon received, as well as skeptical beliefs about the hygiene of reusable period products. Here is what you should know, the average menstruating person spends 40 years of their life menstruating (reproductive years). During those years, a person would use an average of 11,000 disposable tampons or pads. Why does this matter? And what are the differences and benefits to using reusable, sustainable products? This article focuses on 3 main reasons, first, reusable products are better for the environment. 11,000 tampon applicators multiplied by the 3.5 billion people who menstruate is a lot! Next, reusable products are less costly in the long run than single use products. Finally, reusable products may be better for your reproductive health.


#1: Reusable products are better for the environment.


Disposable pads are made out of either cotton, or synthetic materials and bleached, and the adhesive side of the pad is made from plastic. Disposable tampons usually (not all of them) come with plastic applicators, the tampon itself is not made with plastic however. A regular disposable pad can take between 500-800 years to break down after disposal, and they will never fully biodegrade due to the use of plastic in production. Tampons, however, only take about 6 months to biodegrade, but the plastic applicators never do. What’s worse, is that the plastic applicators will break down and become microplastics, and when they end up in our oceans, it affects marine life and eventually human life. The Marine Conservation Society found “nine plastic applicators per km on UK beaches”. In 2009, The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup project collected 20,000 tampon applicators. Another researcher found that almost 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills EVERY year. It is estimated that the average woman throws away up to 300 pounds of menstrual related products in her lifetime. Imagine reducing the waste we produce by 300 pounds?


More than the personal waste produced, the main environmental impact is the processing of raw materials, specifically the processing of low density polyethylene and cellulose, which are the plastics used in the adhesive part of your pads and in tampon applicators. Producing these plastics takes manufacturers a lot of energy. Further, cotton production also has a big environmental impact since farming cotton requires large amounts of water, pesticides, and fertilizer. 


#2 Reusable menstrual products have lower long-run costs.


The average menstruating person spends about $6,300 (Canadian Dollars) on disposable menstrual products in their lifetime. Let’s do a cost analysis to determine exactly how much you can save by switching to reusable products.


Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups last up to 10 years, and the average cost is about $40 (from Walmart). The cleanser you should use to sanitize your cup costs about $10 for 177mL. But, you can also sterilize with a tiny but of vinegar combined with lots of boiling water! If you bleed once per month for 40 years, you’ll need to buy 4 menstrual cups in your lifetime, which will cost: 

4 x $40 = $160. 


Let's say one bottle of cleanser lasts you 4 months, you’ll buy 3 bottles per year, which will cost an additional:

3bottles x $10 x 40years = $1,200. 


Again, you can sterilize with just vinegar and boiling water. But, altogether, using menstrual cups will cost $1,200 + $160 = $1,360 in your lifetime, that’s a total savings of $6,300 - $1,360 = $4,940.


You can save almost $5,000 using menstrual cups instead of disposable products!


Reusable Pads

Reusable pads range from $16 to $22 and last about 5 years. Again, let’s assume you menstruate for 40 years of your life. Let’s also assume you need about 5 pads to manage your period in one month. So, you buy 5 pads for about $20 each, that’s $100 total. Every 5 years, you’ll buy 5 new pads, which means you’ll need to buy 40 reusable pads in your lifetime. At $20 per pad, you will spend:

40pads x $20 = $800.  


That’s a savings of $6,300 - $800 = $5,500.


You can save over $5,000 by switching to reusable pads!


Period Underwear

Period underwear ranges from $30-40 and lasts for about 6 months to 2 years. Let’s assume in this analysis that one pair of underwear lasts 1 year, and costs $35. You will need at least 3 pairs, so you will spend $105 per year, and $4,200 in your lifetime. 


You can save money using period panties instead of disposable products, however, if your period is heavy, and you run through multiple pairs of underwear per day, you may need more pairs, and the cost will equal the cost of disposable products in the long run. 


Despite the lower savings, period underwear is a great and comfortable option, and can be used in conjunction with other period products.


#3 Reusable products may be better for your reproductive health.


Since menstrual cups are made of silicone and designed to collect rather than absorb liquid, they can be better for your health. Pads and tampons are designed to absorb your period blood, so they actually end up absorbing discharge and fluids as well. This can dry out your vagina and disrupt your PH levels, causing irritation. As well, for this reason, you are less likely to develop UTI’s or TSS with reusable products compared to disposable ones. Switching to menstrual cups or reusable pads eliminated this irritation, and maintains regular, healthy bodily fluids.





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