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Three eco-friendly period products, to fight against plastic waste

Eco-friendly period products: Most menstrual pads are made from 90% plastic which takes up to a thousand years to decompose.

By nayanikaphukan
New Update
eco friendly sanitary products

Eco-friendly period products: Menstruation is part of every woman's life. On average, a woman menstruates for about 7 years during their lifetime. Based on an average of 38 years of menstruation, women use more than 11,000 disposable menstrual products throughout their lifetime. Most menstrual pads are made from 90% plastic which takes up to a thousand years to decompose. And, either end up in landfills or in the ocean.

Read more: India’s landfills add 113k tonnes of menstrual waste each year: Report

In India, around 12 billion pads per year are used taking into account 336 million menstruating women. Furthermore, the production of plastic components of pads and tampons requires huge amounts of fossil fuels. With an estimated carbon footprint of around 5.5 kg CO2 equivalents.

How to dispose a sanitary pad?

Courtesy: Twitter/CEEahmedabad

As per the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, sanitary waste needs to be securely wrapped in pouches provided by the manufacturers. Then, marked with an X or a red dot and handed separately to the waste collector to avoid mixing up with other household waste.

But according to reports, sanitary waste is never segregated and reaches the landfill most of the time.

Read more: Are Tampons Bad for the Environment? - LeafScore

Sustainable eco-friendly period products

Menstrual cup: These are made of medical-grade silicone and rubber. It can last upto 10 years if taken care of. Menstrual cups are internally used by the user and the cup collects blood. It only requires water for washing and has been estimated to have the lowest impact on the environment.

Menstrual cup | Courtesy: Vulvani, via Wikimedia Commons

Period pants: These pants are made of synthetic and natural fibers and last up to 2 years. 

Reusable pads: These too are made with synthetic or natural fibers and can last up to 5 years. Women who choose to use reusable pads require access to clean water in order to wash them. Unlike single-use pads, these pads are good as new after a wash.


Read more: Menstrual products and sustainable alternatives report 2021 - Life Cycle Initiative

Why do women hesitant to make a switch?

Two of the main factors that influence one's choice are accessibility and awareness.

  • In rural India, people/women don't have accessible period products. Social stigma plays a role in making the products inaccessible. Even if they are accessible, they are not 'affordable'.
  • According to reports, women's health is not prioritized in numerous households, and it becomes difficult in low-income households.
  • Not just this, sanitary products are often considered luxury with a pack of pads or a menstrual cup ranging between Rs.100-500.
  • The high availability of disposable products compared to reusable ones affects the uptake of the items.
  • Also, one might not be educated on how to use a menstrual cup for example, and many young women might be intimidated to make the switch.
  • Disposable products are often marketed more than reusable ones. This cognitive bias might influence the choices of the customer.
  • The cost of a menstrual cup is almost equal to a pack of pads, but, women are generally hesitant to use invasive products. The criteria to stay ‘pure’ and ‘damaged hymen’ impose immense pressure on women which also affects the purchase of eco-friendly products. 


Even though menstruation is a biological activity, it is stigmatized. Rather, it is considered taboo or something to be ashamed of. Hence, people don’t like to talk much about it. Therefore, there has been a lack of awareness regarding menstrual health, and simultaneously of the sustainable alternatives to non-biodegradable pads.

Read more: (PDF) A Study into Public Awareness of the Environmental Impact of Menstrual Products and Product Choice

There is information available. All we require to do is start the conversation. As mentioned above, it is more than about gender now. It is also about the climate and our contribution to the fight against climate change.

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