The feminine product market currently results in the culmination of millions of micro-plastics a year. These products are not only made of plastic, but are packaged and sold in the same material. The eco-friendly alternatives for feminine products are however, on the rise.
The Feminine Products Market
The feminine hygiene market includes tampons, pads, panty liners, sanitary napkins, and menstrual cups amongst other lesser-known items. The most commonly used among these, pads and tampons, create significant amounts of permanent waste every year.
Plastic makes up 90% of the packaging for conventional menstrual pads. Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) estimates that these items produce 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. That is, one pad has the same amount of plastic as four plastic shopping bags.
The Environmental Impact
The impact of these products on the environment reaches far beyond our imagination. All these single-use plastics leave behind residue far beyond their expected lifespan. Given that the products are one-use and non-bio-degradable, these menstrual products end up in the trash. 56% of them end up in landfills, 14% are incinerated and 30% end up in our waterways. In the UK 30% of these products are flushed down the toilet despite the reiteration of their non-flushable nature.
With women representing just over half of the global population, and the average woman using between 5 and 15 thousand sanitary products in their lifetime, the sheer volume of this plastic waste is hard to imagine.
What is Being Done?
The taboo surrounding feminine products, although it has diminished, has also impacted the innovation of such products. As technology advances and social pressure on companies increases, sustainable and eco-friendly feminine products are experiencing an exponential increase.
For instance, the start-up Planera sells flushable pads which are 70% plant base and only takes up to 30 days to degrade. Their price is between 40-47p (GBP) per pad. The American company Ruth also sells biodegradable and disposable pads which are up to 93% plant based and range from 90 to 95p (GBP) per pad.
Another eco-friendly company selling sustainable products is Peace with the Wild. Not only do they sell feminine hygiene products, but also products for haircare, makeup and maternity. Regarding menstrual products, they have reusable sanitary pads and period pants as well as organic menstrual cups. The price for each pad is on average $6 and for each period panty is $4.80.
The real game-changer in this industry is menstrual cups. The demand for which surged during the start of the Covid pandemic. Feminine products in many countries suffered a shortage during lockdown and as menstrual cups are reusable, they decrease the need to go to the pharmacy or supermarket.
This product lasts longer than the more common alternatives (6-12 hours) and also can save money in the long-term. The price is from $20 to $40; however, but they can last between six months and ten years. With tampons costing an average of $132 a year they stand as the more expensive option. They also are easier to access than the other eco-friendly tampon and pad alternatives due to being available online and in shops
The Future of Feminine Products
As awareness among the global population raises regarding the impact of cheap disposable menstrual care products on the environment, the demand for eco-friendly, cost-effective, and durable feminine hygiene products is significantly increasing. Projections on this market expect it to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2020 to 2025, mainly due to the increasing options of feminine hygiene products.
It now seems that the world is taking notice of the impact of feminine product waste. Reactionary measures are starting to be taken.
But like so many other environmental issues, the fight is far from over. As COP26 showed, more needs to be done. It seems however, that globally we are heading in the right direction and companies like Planera, Ruth, and Peace with the Wild exemplify this.