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HomeOPINIONSanitary sustainability trends: Disposable are out, re-usables are in. Period.

Sanitary sustainability trends: Disposable are out, re-usables are in. Period.

Sustainability is the buzz words of 2021. After the strange times of 2020 where we saw stockpiling… supermarket shelves emptied of pads, tampons and toilet paper, we are now seeing an increase in online shopping and spending. Consumers are now also more aware of the need to become more self-sufficient and not rely on disposable items. This trend is extending to all corners of the consumer market and reusable period products are experiencing exponential growth.

By Susan Johns from Lunette NZ.


Who is the market?

In Australia and New Zealand there are approximately 6 million menstruators.  Every year, there will be approximately 30 000 new menstruators who are looking for products to help them manage their period. U.S. Menstrual Cup Market Nielsen Analysis – showed that out of all menstrual products during the 2020 ‘COVID year’ menstrual cups had the most growth with a steady 6 percent growth. 

Ditching the disposables

90 percent of conventional pads are made of plastic (backing, adhesive strips, packaging), so in landfill that’s 300-500 years to decompose, if ever (due to modern landfill practices, which effectively “Mummifies” rubbish so it will never break down). On average, a menstruator will use 16-22 conventional sanitary pads or tampons per period cycle. With 13 periods per year, 30-40 years of menstruating, you can see that there is an enormous amount of waste from disposable period products which is just not sustainable.

Tell me more about reusable period products

Menstrual Cups: Made from 100 percent medical grade silicone, this bell-shaped cup is worn internally to catch period blood. Simply fold and insert the cup, and let it do its thing, when it’s time to empty, simply, remove, empty, wash and re-insert. Menstrual Cups hold 3-4 times as much period blood as a tampon, so they can be worn for hours and overnight and when swimming. They last for years and you only need one.

Period underwear: Just like wearing normal underwear except these have an absorbent and leak-proof gusset. Made from modern, tech-savvy fabrics to absorb and hold blood, they do not feel wet, and antimicrobial properties of the fabric ensure there is no smell. Change them 2-4 times per 24 hours, then rinse and wash with the rest of the household laundry. They also last for years and are great for tweens, teens and menstruators who cannot/ choose not to use insertable period products. They come in different colours, styles, a great range of sizes and 4 different absorbencies from light (10ml) to maxi 24 hour (50ml).

Reusable Cloth pads: These have come a long way and your Nanna wouldn’t recognise the modern cloth pads of today, which are quite thin and have a waterproof PUL backing. Wings and a little clip around your underpants keeps them in place. Both Cloth pads and period underwear hold 1-3 tampons worth of fluid, depending on the absorbency chosen.


What are the benefits of reusable period products?

Everyone has their own “Wow” moment when switching to reusable period products. There are 4 main reasons for people making the change:

Environmental: Reusable products greatly reduce the amount of period rubbish going to landfill. Teaching about sustainability is now a part of the New Zealand curriculum and can be applied across all subject areas. Tweens and teens these days are more environmentally aware as a result and are moving towards reusable products over single use, plastic filled throw aways.

Savings: An investment of $50 in a Menstrual Cup or $200 worth of period underwear is worthwhile as opposed to approximately $1000 over 5 years for disposable product. 

Health: Conventional sanitary pads and tampons contain chemicals, dioxins and bleaches, which can leach into the body or cause reactions and chemical burns to the skin. Menstrual Cups made from Medical Silicone do not leach chemicals into the system, and they do not absorb any of the body’s natural lubrication. Period underwear and reusable pads are usually made from organic cotton, the top layer, made from natural fibres, is moisture wicking and will not cause chemical burns to the skin. Many people experience less cramping and a much more pleasant, “free-flowing” period when using reusable period products

Convenience: A menstrual cup can be worn internally for up to 8 hours between emptying, which means more time for play, sleep, work and study. School students do not need to worry about a lunch-time pad change and many menstrual cup users say it’s like not having your period. Reusable period products don’t run out, so there is no need to dash to the supermarket or stockpile as with disposables.

A shift in purchasing:

Latest market reports show that the sales of tampons has dropped in the last 12 months compared to the previous 12 months. Sales of Menstrual Cups has increased as evidenced by an increase in brands from only 3 brands globally 15 years ago to now over 120 brands of menstrual cups. Globe Newswire reports that the global menstrual cup market is expected to reach US$ 636.16 million in 2027 from US$ 406.7 million in 2019. The market is estimated to grow with a CAGR of 5.9 percent from 2019-2027. 

Benefits for retailers:

Now is the time to become a Menstrual Cup retailer! One web store reports a 50 percent increase in menstrual cup sales from December 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic was first discovered to April 2020 when the country was in lockdown. This growth has been maintained and we are hearing catch phrases such as “Periods don’t stop for pandemics” and more people are making the switch as word-of-mouth spreads the benefits. The same web store also reported a 30 percent increase in period underwear sales during the same time.

Retailers need to consider stocking menstrual cups as a standard menstrual product alongside pads and tampons to keep up with the changing menstrual market that is moving towards more modern and sustainable options and experiencing serious exponential growth that is not to be dismissed.

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