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How much plastic is in your period care?

Plastic pollution

The widespread plastic pollution problem is harming our planet. It affects wildlife, oceans and fills up landfill sites which all contributes to climate change. So what about period care, how much plastic is in these essential items? We’re here to give you the lowdown on period plastic 👇

Do you know what your tampons, pads and liners are made of? It’s strange when you think about it, but these are items that we don’t think to question. You might have used the same product, from the same brand for years without second guessing the ingredients. It looks like it’s just cotton, right?🤷‍♀️

Well, this is not entirely true. Whilst you might be using a pad with a ‘cotton-like feel’ for example, the majority of the time what you’re actually using is a pad made from plastic!

What are my tampons and pads made from? Meet the period plastics.


Many mainstream tampons are made from a mix of conventional cotton and rayon. Viscose rayon, a synthetic fibre used since the 1930s, is produced from cellulose. Rayon production is a huge contributor to deforestation. So what about the cotton? Conventional cotton has earned the title of the ‘dirtiest crop on earth’ due to the excessive use of insecticides and pesticides. The use of toxic pesticides, pollutes local rivers and waterways. Cotton farming in general uses a high amount of water (the Aral Sea has shrunk by 85% after decades of cotton production) and it degrades the soil.

The majority of conventional tampons are then wrapped in plastic and/or come with a plastic applicator which can take up to 500 years to breakdown. Flushing is also a major flushing with period care (PSA: never flush your products) so these applicators end up polluting sewers and the ocean! Even ‘sugarcane’ or ‘eco plastic’ tampon applicators contribute to this issue so be careful of greenwashing with these products. Disposable tampon plastic applicators are NEVER recyclable because they’ve been ‘contaminated with bodily fluids.’ So whatever you use ends up in general waste which is why the material matters here if you’re using applicator tampons.

Pads and liners

Conventional pads are usually made with cellulose, polyethene and polyolefins. City to Sea revealed that your standard main brand pack of pads can contain up to 5 carrier bags worth of plastic. Many pads are in fact up to 90% plastic. This can explain why some pad users find them bulky, irritating or uncomfortable. Alongside use of plastic in the pads, they also contain superabsorbent polymers, fragrance, dyes and other chemical additives. It can contribute to irritation and in any sense it’s important to be aware what chemicals are coming into contact with your vaginal area.

Tampons and pads are single-use disposable items so what they are made from matters. When disposed of in general waste, they sit around in landfill for centuries. So every pad you, your mum, your grandmother and so on used once upon a time might still be in existence today!

What are the alternatives?

Periods are personal and you have to make a choice based on what’s right for you. If you’re looking to ditch the period plastic and make a sustainable switch then there are so many options available.

Organic cotton period care

Organic cotton tampons, pads and liners are designed to be kind to you and the planet. For example, our period care is all made with certified organic cotton (from core to cover), without rayon, fragrance/perfumes, dyes or chlorine bleach. We ditch plastic applicators in favour of biodegradable cardboard or reusable tampon applicators, and we use either paper or compostable wrappers to cut out plastic.

Our entire organic cotton range is produced in a facility that’s powered by renewable energy, and our products are carbon neutral. We even tackle ocean plastic pollution through sales of our cardboard applicator tampons. For every box you buy, we’re recovering the equivalent amount in ocean plastic.

Reusables – Menstrual cups

Reusable period care products are also increasingly popular, one of the key choices being the zero-waste menstrual cup. Cups are a highly effective solution to capture rather than absorb menstrual flow. These are not only great for the planet but they’re also good when you’re on a budget. You buy one menstrual cup and can reuse this time and time again on your period for years to come. This  means you save on having to buy period care.

Like anything new, it takes some getting used to but as soon as you learn how to fold and comfortably place the cup it’s a game-changer.

Reusables – Period pads or pants

Whilst a cup is a direct replacement for a tampon, there are also reusable options for pad users. This includes washable reusable pads and reusable period pants.

For a super eco option here, we recommend looking for reusable pads or pants made from sustainable materials. This could be Tencel, recycled materials or organic cotton.

Top tip for when shopping reusable period care:  Focus on quality wherever possible. To be truly sustainable, you need this product to be an investment so it lasts for years. Otherwise, you’ll end up throwing it away after just a few uses. You can also adapt what you use on your period depending on your flow and budget which could result in a mix of disposables and reusables. It’s your period, so you call the shots after all and your comfort is important 🥰

Do these alternatives perform?

We couldn’t sign off the blog without answering this crucial question! After all, we are talking about products designed to collect/absorb menstrual flow. You need to have confidence that they won’t let you down when you’re in work, on the bus or at the gym. The short answer is YES. These products all comply to industry standard absorbency guidelines. They are also trusted by customers across the world. If you want to hear about how TOTM products perform, check out our product reviews or  feel welcome to drop us a question directly.

Ready to make the switch? Discover our full range here

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