The war on single-use plastics is nothing new. It’s become normal to see a range of non-plastic straws in our bars and cafés, we can all be seen lugging around our reusable water bottles, and discounts for bringing our own coffee cup or container to takeaway joints are encouraging us to ditch the throwaway options.
We’ve all been outraged at the images of turtles trapped in shopping bags or the stomachs of seabirds filled with non-degradable rubbish, and I’d feel pretty confident to claim that most of us here in Aotearoa have made some kind of lifestyle change in the name of helping the environment. It’s safe to say that we know about the damage caused by single-use plastics, and positive changes are being made, both in our individual lives as well as across our society as a whole, to mitigate the damage to our earth and our oceans.
Yet, despite all the focus on the harm of single-use plastics, the conversation around the environmental impact of disposable period products feels like it’s only just beginning.
So why are single-use period products harmful to our environment… and what can we do about it?
For one, disposable period products are still being flushed down our toilets. Whether this is due to lack of education, a lack of proper disposal units, or embarrassment around dealing with used period waste, the fact is that millions of plastics from period products are being dumped in our oceans. This leads to huge amounts of pollution, massively endangering our wildlife and harmfully affecting the ecosystem of our oceans.
Yet no matter the disposal method, single-use period products continue to negatively affect our environment. Even if we’re taking care to never flush our tampons down the toilet, the materials that pads and tampons are made from are still mostly non-biodegradable (and even the organic, more environmentally-friendly ones are far too slow to break down!), which means that single-use period products are contributing to our growing landfills.
What’s more, the actual creation of single-use disposable period products (especially pads and applicator tampons) is wrecking havoc on our environment. One study found that it was the processing of the thermoplastics (used in plastic tampon applicators and the plastic back-strip on period pads) that had the biggest impact on global warming. So, even if we dispose of single-use products correctly and follow all the guidelines, we’re still contributing to the destruction of our environment simply by using these products – and with the average menstruator using approximately 20 pads or tampons each month, our individual environmental impacts will add up pretty quickly over our lifetimes. It’s a something of an environmental nightmare, am I right?
Luckily, pads and tampons are no longer our only options for managing our menstrual flow! By using AWWA reusable period underwear, not only will you be contributing to a climate-positive business, you’ll also be helping to combat the environmental damage caused by single-use plastics.
Currently, based on customer orders, AWWA is preventing over 560,000 single-use period products from ending up in our landfills or oceans every single month. That’s wild. Do the maths and you’ll soon see that it works out to be over 6.7 million each year… that’s 6.7 million single-use plastics no longer burdening our landfills or washing up on our beaches every single year.
What’s more, as the popularity of AWWA reusable period underwear grows, the positive impact that AWWA has on combating the environmental damage of single-use plastics grows, too. With increasing numbers of new customers turning to reusable period underwear every month, AWWA is preventing (on average) an additional 28,000 single-use period products from being disposed. With this continued growth, AWWA customers will collectively end up saving 7.1 million single-use period products from damaging our environment this year… and 7.4 million in the coming year. Yes, you read that right. That’s 7.4 million fewer single-use plastic products being used in just one year.
It can be easy to think that we’re only one person and that our individual actions can’t make a lot of difference. But these numbers show that, together, our actions add up massively. So, if you’ve not already made the switch from plastics to period pants, now is the perfect time…our environment will thank you for it!
Written by Shardae Grenfell, AWWA guest blogger