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What's in Your Pad?

Over the last few years, there has been a significant amount of conversation around the growing plastic problem. An overkill of plastic in landfills, oceans and in our lifestyles has caused environmentalists to raise awareness about this never-ending predicament. Reusable straws, cups and cutlery are now mainstream and any restaurant that does not offer them is frowned upon.

Some animals now live in a world of plastics—like these hyenas scavenging at a landfill in Harar, Ethiopia. They listen for garbage trucks and find much of their food in trash. PHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN LEHMANNHyenas scavenging at a plastic filled landfill in Ethiopia. Photographed by Brian Lehmann. Source: Nat Geo Images

But here’s the shocking thing, besides plastic cups and straws, menstrual hygiene products like pads are on top of the list of ocean pollutants. And how is that? Well, pads are made of 90% plastic. Yes, the very thing that seemingly protects you on your period is actually destroying the Earth and doing more harm than good to your body.

Ella Daish is campaigning to persuade companies to eliminate plastic from women's sanitary products. Source: The Guardian; Photo: Ella Daish

The contents of one single sanitary pad are derived from the world’s most polluting industry - Petroleum. Shocking right? The “wood pulp” that absorbs all the fluid is actually filled with polyacrylate gels. How else do you think your pads become so thin and absorbent? The leak-proof barriers are made of polyethylene film and the cover is polypropylene. See how much “poly” or petrochemicals go into them? I found out about this a couple of years ago and ever since, I haven’t been able to even touch a pad, let alone use one. 

Image Source: Science and Samosa

Although your skin cannot literally breathe, it’s a permeable membrane that absorbs compounds from outside and transfers them into the body. (That explains the functioning of nicotine patches, doesn’t it?) Now just imagine the amount of petrochemicals and microplastics your body is absorbing during one single cycle!  

Let’s not forget the packaging of your pads. Each one, individually wrapped in a plastic cover and then packaged into one big plastic pack. In totality, one pack of your pads is equal to four plastic bags. Isn’t that simply ridiculous (and unnecessary)?

Image Source: Heydaycare.com

Don’t get me started on tampons! Inorganic cotton production is a massive consumer of water because cotton is a thirsty crop. It takes 6 pints of water to grow a single bud. Besides, cotton is a playground for pests so there is the generous addition of pesticides and fertilisers which finally end up in your tampons. 

Having said all of that, there is still good news. There are alternatives. In this hyper-aware world, some visionaries have brought to light the best alternatives - 

Menstrual cups : 528 pads and tampons = 1 menstrual cup. That means, a two years’ supply of conventional menstrual products can be solved with one silicone device. Menstrual cups are great, but they also demand some attention. It is necessary to boil them before and after each cycle in order to avoid infection. But all in all, the cup is a great option and many women swear by it! 

Image Source: Hey Girls

Menstrual Panties : As magical as menstrual cups sound, they come with the burden of being inserted into the vagina. This idea may not be agreeable with many younger girls, especially those who start their period early. In fact, they may not be the ideal scenario for transgender men either. That’s when menstrual panties like Pink Panty swoop in! An option that is as simple as wearing a panty and as convenient as throwing in the washing machine after 12 hours of continuous use.

Pink Panty comes in 3 styles, one for each kind of flow. Source: Pink Panty

They are organic and completely free of microplastics. The absorbent layer is made of bamboo, a sustainable material that grows easily. The Pink Panty is packaged in a water-proof, compostable corn pouch and comes in recycled cardboard boxes.

Reusable Pads : An old school method that has been working for centuries! They work like a normal pad but are made of cotton fabric and need to be washed after each use. 

Image Source: Livemaster
    To sum it up, if you are still using pads and tampons, you may be skeptical of these options but remember, the Earth is our responsibility. We need to pass it onto future generations. So take the first step and it only gets easier. 

    The photographer freed this stork from a plastic bag at a landfill in Spain. Photographed by: John Cancalosi; Image Source: Nat Geo Images

    Switch to Pink Panty NOW! 
    Shop here -> https://pink-panty.com/

    Cover image shot by Flip Nicklin/ Minden Pictures, Nat Geo Image Collection.

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