Plastic Pollution and Disposable Period Products: Where Does Period Waste Go?
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Plastic Pollution and Disposable Period Products: Where Does Period Waste Go?

by Aisle Team
Plastic Pollution and Disposable Period Products: Where Does Period Waste Go?

Plastics have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, from everyday items like takeout containers to shampoo/soap bottles to regularly used essentials like period products. As responsible inhabitants of this planet, it is crucial for us to comprehend the profound impact of plastics on our environment. 

Approximately 14 million tons of plastic waste find their way into our oceans every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments whether through accidental or intentional means. Alarmingly, a majority of this waste comprises single-use plastics used in food packaging, grocery bags, bottles, and more. This pollution poses a grave threat to our natural resources, particularly our oceans. An international team of researchers calculates that between 82 and 358 trillion plastic particles—a collective 2.4 to 10.8 billion pounds—are floating across the world...and that’s only in the top foot of seawater. 

Do tampons and sanitary pads contain plastics?

Shockingly, regular single-use sanitary pads contain nearly 90% plastic content, and their decomposition can take anywhere from 500 to 800 years, ultimately breaking down into harmful microplastics. Tampons are not exempt from this issue either, as their plastic applicators and strings contribute to the environmental burden. Some tampons even contain plastic in their absorbent components, further exacerbating the problem. Tragically, plastic tampon applicators have been found inside the stomachs of deceased sea birds, illustrating the devastating consequences of our unsustainable choices.

How much period plastic is generated every year?

Disposable period products contribute significantly to the plastic pollution crisis. Each year, 20 billion single-use menstrual products - tampons, pads and applicators enter landfills and waterways in North America. That’s a ton of trash that could be diverted from entering landfills and waterways just by switching to plastic-free options. 

Period Pollution

During the breakdown process of disposable products and their plastic packaging, microplastics are produced - which are tiny particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastics. Microplastics have been found to alter marine ecosystems and pose a serious threat to ocean biomes. Improper disposal of menstrual waste, such as flushing sanitary pads down toilets, leads to blockages in sewage systems. Sewers are ill-equipped to handle fully absorbed menstrual products due to their expanded size. Ensuring proper disposal of these products can alleviate this issue. Additionally, these products often contain dioxins and furans, toxic substances that pose risks to plant, animal, and human life.

What are plastic-free alternatives to disposable period products?

By understanding the detrimental impact of disposable period products on our environment, we can make informed choices and seek eco-friendly alternatives to mitigate plastic pollution and promote a healthier planet for future generations. Fortunately, several eco-friendly alternatives are available that can help reduce the environmental impact of period products. Here are a few examples:

Menstrual Cups: Reusable cups made of medical-grade silicone or latex that collect menstrual blood instead of absorbing it. They can last for several years with proper care.

Reusable Cloth Pads: Washable cloth pads made from organic cotton that can be reused for multiple menstrual cycles.

Period Underwear: Absorbent underwear designed specifically for menstruation. They offer leakproof protection and can be washed and reused.

Plastic waste is a significant environmental concern, and the use of disposable period products only exacerbates this problem. By understanding the detrimental effects of plastic pollution and opting for eco-friendly alternatives, we can take meaningful steps to reduce our ecological footprint. Choosing reusable and sustainable options for menstrual hygiene not only benefits the environment but also promotes a healthier future for ourselves and the planet we call home. Let's strive for a plastic-free period and contribute to a cleaner and greener world.

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