Making Eco-Friendly Feminine Products More Accessible

The McGill Menstrual Health Project is making eco-friendly feminine products available to everyone.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The McGill Menstrual Health Project is making eco-friendly feminine products available to everyone. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Making eco-friendly feminine products more accessible

It shouldn’t be a secret that women use feminine products at least once a month. While they are a necessity, they also have a lot of environmental impacts. The single-use pads and tampons are generally made out of cotton and plastic to account for their absorbancy and leak-proof features. Even the upper layer of a pad, which looks like fabric, is made of a plastic woven sheet.

These products are generally thrown into the landfill. Plastic-based disposable pads can take about 500 to 800 years to break down. Many tampons also have plastic applicators, which, although sometimes labelled as “recyclable”, often get thrown into the landfill due to the contamination with organic matter. Moreover, pads and tampons are generally wrapped in plastic, which can’t be recycled.  

Some feminine products get flushed down the toilets, which can have an impact on the world’s oceans and marine biology. During the breakdown process of disposable products and their plastic packaging, microplastics are produced. The Marine Conservation Society found that single-use feminine products and their packaging are among the most frequently discarded items on beaches and in the ocean.  Flushing feminine products down the toilet can also negatively impact sewage systems. 

It is said that each user of feminine products will dispose of between 5,000 and 15,000 pads and tampons in their lifetime. Multiply that by the number of people who menstruate, which becomes a lot of waste.  

But there are solutions to this problem. Many companies are developing eco-friendly feminine products. Some single-use products are now made out of organic cotton and are plastic-free, meaning they will biodegrade more quickly than synthetic fibres. Other eco-friendly menstrual products include reusable pads and underwear made of synthetic or natural fibres, and menstrual cups made of medical-grade silicone or rubber. These products can all be cleaned and reused, eliminating the need and use of single-use products.  

While these are good environmental solutions, the reality is that eco-friendly feminine products are generally more expensive than single-use plastic feminine products. Moreover, they sometimes aren’t available or accessible to many people.  

The McGill University Menstrual Health Project is working to bridge these gaps and make eco-friendly feminine products available to everyone. Since 2019, the student-run group has installed feminine product dispensers in close to 30 buildings and bathrooms across campus. The dispensers provide both pads and tampons for free. The pads are made out of organic bamboo and are chemical, chlorine and fragrance-free. They come in compostable wrapping and recyclable box packaging. Their tampons are 100% certified organic cotton and come in compostable wrappers. Their eco-friendly feminine products come from Joni, a brand based in Vancouver that uses compostable and biodegradable materials out of organic bamboo. Get innovative and integrative vaginal healthcare, powered by a state-of-the-art vaginal microbiome test by Evvy.

Additionally, the Menstrual Health Project has a reusable product giveaway once a month. They provide period underwear, reusable pads, menstrual cups and discs for free. Their reusable products come from Period Aisle, a certified B corporation located in Vancouver.  

The McGill University Menstrual Health Project continues to work towards filling more bathrooms with free eco-friendly feminine products. It is always open to suggestions about where, on campus, these products should be offered.   

Feminine products will always be needed, and it is important that we do our best (when possible) to use eco-friendly feminine products to reduce landfill waste and protect our oceans. However, it is not always an option, and the McGill Menstrual Health Project is working to make eco-friendly feminine products available and accessbile to all. Hopefully, we will see more eco-friendly feminine products in buildings and bathrooms outside of McGill and in more public spaces.  

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