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Zero Waste Period Products: From Period Underwear to Reusable Menstrual Pads. What's Best?

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

Going zero waste for your period is easy and can help save you money and the environment. But, what zero waste period products are the best? From period underwear, reusable pads to menstrual cups - we dive into the best zero waste period products for 2020 to help you decide. Before we begin, you may be wondering, what is zero waste and where did the idea come from in the first place?

Zero Waste Period Ideas

What Is Zero Waste?

Zero waste became a popular lifestyle movement in 2009 thanks to Bea Johnson, a French-born author and blogger who brought the concept of zero waste home to the masses and inspired millions of her readers to embrace waste-free lifestyle (visit her zero waste blog here). Thanks to simple zero waste tricks and ideas Johnson and her family of four accumulate only a jar full of waste per year! And they are definitely not alone with many other influencers and their followers guided by the same principle - refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle.

While adopting a completely zero waste lifestyle is probably not possible, you can definitely help to create less garbage by ditching certain products and switching to their more sustainable alternatives. In this blog post we have concentrated on zero waste periods-related products that will assist in your waste-free journey and, as a bonus, help to save your hard earned cash in the process.

Why Go Zero Waste For Periods?

Do you know that over the course of a lifetime, an average female uses five to fifteen thousand pads and tampons, that in most of the cases wind up in landfills. When in landfills, disposable menstrual products contaminate the environment because they are made mostly of plastic. Tampons are wrapped in plastic, sometimes encased in plastic applicators and have a thin layer of plastic in their absorbent part. Pads contain plastic in their leak-proof base and synthetics that soak up fluid, and come in a plastic packaging.

Those of you who is willing to stop this unnecessary plastic pollution, can switch to zero waste substitutes such as reusable menstrual pads, menstrual cups or special period underwear. Although their initial investment might be a turn-off for some, they certainly pay for themselves over time (and some of them pretty soon!).

Zero Waste Periods With Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads

What are reusable cloth menstrual pads?

Cloth menstrual pads are cloth pads worn in the underwear to prevent menstrual fluid from leaking onto your clothes. Cloth menstrual pads are an eco-friendly reusable menstrual hygiene product, and are an alternative to single-use pads (sanitary napkins) and tampons.

Reusable cloth menstrual pads are usually made of natural and highly absorbent materials such as bamboo, hemp or cotton, they also contain a water-proof layer to prevent any leaking. You can choose among a range of sizes, absorbencies and designs based on your flow and preferences. You would want to change cloth pads as frequently as disposable pads. In case you are wondering how to wash reusable menstrual pads, it’s fairly easy: you would need to first pre-rinse any used cloth pads in cold water in order to remove as much blood as possible, and then add it to your regular laundry or hand wash it with a detergent of choice. When purchasing cloth menstrual pads make sure to buy a small wet bag: those would be handy in case you need to change pads when not being at home. After properly washing your cloth pads, you might throw them in a dryer or opt for a line drying.

Depending on how often you like to change your cloth pads and their absorbency, you will need between 2-5 pads a day, so you would want to own at least 6-12 reusable pads overall.

Reusable cloth menstrual pad benefits

Reusable cloth menstrual pads are reusable containing no plastic at all and are made of silicone instead. Similar to reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups come in different sizes. For choosing the right size for you, you can follow the manufacturer’s recommendations or take a menstrual cup quiz here. The best part about menstrual cups is that they can last for up to 10 years - a dream come true for all zero waste advocates!

Zero Waste Periods With Menstrual Cups

Zero Waste Periods With Menstrual Cups

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene device that is inserted into the vagina during menstruation. Its purpose is to collect menstrual fluid and prevent its leaking onto clothes. Menstrual cups have been around since the early 1930’s but only recently have become popular due to new design, eco-friendly materials and driven by the need to reverse climate change. Menstrual cups are usually made of flexible medical grade silicone and shaped like a bell with a stem.

Menstrual cup benefits

If you are currently using pads or tampons, there are several benefits to switching to menstrual cups. The obvious benefit to switching to menstrual cups is that they are reusable meaning you become one step closer in your zero waste mission. menstrual cups also have a larger capacity to hold liquid and for longer than their disposable counterparts. The average tampon holds between six and nine grams of liquid. Menstrual cups can hold almost five times that amount, capable of up to 28 grams. This also means that you can save time between changes allowing a consumer to use them for up to 12 hours without a worry! As menstrual cups form a suction, they don't leak like pads or tampons generally do when full. By switching to menstrual cups you also decrease your chances of getting toxic shock syndrome (TTS) - a bacteria induced illness that can be caused by very absorbent tampons that you could actually die from (yes, it's serious).

Zero Waste Periods With Period Underwear

How do period underwear work?

Period underwear are menstrual panties made with a blend of fabric and/or plastic layers that that are designed to be reusable. They work by offering a leak-proof and breathable alternative to other menstrual products without the visible bulk that one would experience using single-use pads.

So if cloth pads and menstrual cups do not appeal to you, you might try period underwear. There are different brands on the market but most of them promise that their period underwear is able to hold up to 4 tampons’ worth, looking and feeling same as regular underwear at the same time.

Reusable Period Products - How Much Money Can You Save?

In Australia, an individual may spend 60-120AUD per year on disposable period-related products (e.g. tampons or pads).

Reusable cloth menstrual pads will cost you around 20AUD per each. Since you would need minimum 6 of them, the total initial investment would be approximately 120AUD. Reusable pads would last up to 5 years, which brings us to 24AUD per year cost.

Reusable cloth pads savings: ~36-96AUD/year

As to menstrual cups they will cost you around 50AUD and you might need to buy two for hygienic reasons. Since menstrual cups will last you up to 10 years, the overall cost per year would be $10. Menstrual cups savings: ~50-110AUD/year

Expect to pay about somewhere in between 30-60AUD for a pair of period underwear. Two pairs would thus cost you 60-120AUD. With a proper care they would last you up to 2 years.

Period underwear savings: ~30-60AUD/year


With all the benefits and affordable options for going zero waste for your period, if you still use single-use period products, why don't you test out an eco-friendly alternative? With more brands introducing innovative, reusable and comfortable period products onto the market - with the current climate crisis backdrop - going zero waste for your period isn't just another way to save money, but a way you can help save the world.


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