The industry has made enormous efforts in recent years to remedy this sorry state of affairs. We’ve seen the rise of reusable menstrual products including menstrual cups, period pants and reusable tampon applicators, as well as a throng of organic, bleach and plastic free tampons and pads that are much kinder to the environment.
Periods have caused a bit of an environmental conundrum due to the number of single-use products as well as the plastic found in many tampon and pads. In fact, it takes a tampon longer to degrade than the lifespan of the person who uses it and the average menstruating person will use over 11,000 disposable, single-use menstrual products in their reproductive lifetime.
Plus, it’s estimated that women use one billion plastic tampon applicators every single month, which get thrown away and end up clogging up landfill or polluting the oceans.
However, if you’re a long-term user of traditional plastic applicator tampons, switching to period pants or a menstrual cup will come as a big readjustment to your usual routine both in terms of using the products while on your period (anyone who has ever tried a menstrual cup will know the likeliness of leaks during the first few uses) and taking care of the products to make sure they are fit for use next time (N.B. do not put your menstrual cup in the dishwasher).
But now, the world’s first flushable period pad has been created by sustainable sanitary brand Planera. The game-changing pad is made of wood pulp fibres and a 100% biodegradable absorbent powder allowing it to be ultra absorbent (they’ve been test in the labs for up to 24 hours with a heavy flow) while remaining safe to flush.
We know what you’re thinking – how exactly can the pad be both absorbent and flushable? Surely it would start dissolving in our pants the second our period started? It turns out, a five-day period produces an average of 100ml of blood, but a toilet uses nine litres per flush. For the pad to start breaking down, it needs to be swirled around while soaked in litres of water (i.e. the exact conditions of a toilet bowl).
The pad takes less than 30 days to degrade entirely and contains zero microplastics. By comparison, a non-organic pad will often be 90% plastic and take 500 years to degrade. Even an organic pad will contain microplastics and take an average of 80 years to degrade.
“A pad that is used for 8 hours should never remain for 500 years,” says co-founder Aaron Koshy, an engineer who created Planera along with medical doctor Dr Olivia Ahn. “We spent the last 4 years working with 1500 members of our community to create over 300 iterations of our pad. We learnt from our failures and made some important breakthroughs! Together we developed the only certified flushable pad that breaks down in days, not centuries.”
“Planera’s promise is that the pad you use today will be gone by your next period,” adds Dr Olivia Ahn. We’ll hold you to that.
Looking for more eco ideas for your next period? Check out our round-up of the best period pants as well as our honest review of menstrual cups.