In light of SHAG week, LSU CASH’s Workshop Coordinator and volunteer writer Megan McKone, tells us about the environmentally friendly ways to collect period blood.
Periods occur every month for the average menstruator, with more and more of us becoming aware of the environment and our harmful period products. This handy guide is here to share some of the more environmentally friendly methods of period blood collection. This is by no means exhaustive but includes commonly available products that are relatively inexpensive and will not only help you save a small part of the environment but will allow you to save your precious money in the long run.
Menstrual cups collect blood instead of absorbing it like traditional pads and tampons, they are made from rubber or silicone and are flexible and malleable. A menstrual cup such as the MoonCup can last up to ten years without needing replacing, the cup is inserted into the vagina and creates a suction seal which prevents any bloody leaking out of the cup and ensures all of the blood is collected to avoid ruining your underwear. Menstrual cups are able to collect more blood than the average pad or tampon and they are completely reusable. The cup is removed by lightly pinching the sides at the bottom of the cup and the cup can be emptied into a sink, washed and reinserted. At the end of your period, you would sterilise the cup using boiling water and it is ready for your next period. There are also different sizes of menstrual cups depending on if the user is over thirty or has had a baby via natural birth.
Reusable pads are made from a cloth fabric, they absorb period blood the same way traditional pads do. They also work in the same way traditional pads do but reusable pads do not contain chemicals tested on animals and do not contribute to landfill waste. A pad made with plastics can take between 500 and 800 years to biodegrade. Cloth pads do not have an adhesive like disposable pads, instead, they have a press stud which pops into place, securing it into your underwear. One thing you may be wondering is what about the smell? As reusable pads are made from fabric they have breathability which allows moisture to evaporate, this prevents the build-up of bacteria which causes the unwanted smell. You can reuse cloth pads for up to about five years, after use they just need washing before you can use them again, this can either be done by hand or in the washing machine.
Reusable Tampons and Applicators
Reusable tampons are made from organic cotton which is chemical-free unline regular tampons which are made from cotton and chemicals like polyethene. Tampons often include an applicator which helps the insertion process, reusable applicators are designed to do this while also being environmentally friendly. The limitation of reusable tampons is their cleaning process; reusable tampons are sterilised by placing them in boiling water before and after use, this can be time-consuming to do every day of the period. Moreover, a reusable tampon can only be used for around four to six hours which means that it is not suitable for overnight use as a menstrual cup or reusable pad would be.
Period underwear is made of an absorbent, yet comfortable material designed to feel like regular underwear. They can hold as much blood as two tampons worth and are available in various shapes and sizes. They are reusable and can either be hand or machine washed. However, period panties can be quite expensive, particularly as one pair would not suffice for a whole period of menstruation but this method could be combined with any of the others for a more economical period. Blood collected on period underwear also dries faster than it would on cotton, which is what regular pads are made using. There are also different ranges of underwear to support different flows, one size most definitely does not fit all. Some brands such as THINX donate period underwear to those that cannot afford period products to help end period poverty.
Free bleeding is the bleeding due to a period without any period products such as tampons or pads. Free bleeding can be done out of choice but more often than not it is because of financial need. Female hygiene, or period products, are taxed as a luxury item, this means that they are not considered an essential item by the government and those who buy period products are forced to pay a higher price. Not everyone can afford this luxury task. Period poverty is an epidemic, it is most common in developing countries, but it also occurs in the UK. In the UK 1 in 10 girls cannot afford to buy menstrual products. 1 in 7 struggle to afford menstrual products. Due to period poverty children end up having to take time off school to avoid embarrassment. Charities such as Action Aid and brands such as Always are raising money and donating pads to those in need, but period poverty will not be ending anytime soon. It is important to educate on period poverty to improve available facilities, attitudes and help children and adults who cannot afford to buy period products due to their high cost exacerbated by the government.
Period blood can be collected in so many ways that are not harmful to the environment or our wallets, without reusable period products period poverties will not end and nor will the ever-growing pile in landfill. Whichever method of period collection you have chosen or should you choose everyone must know their options. Happy Bleeding!
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