How eco-friendly are reusable period products

Using reusable period products is a great way to cut down on monthly menstrual waste. We take a look at how recyclable these reusable products are.

On average, you’ll use 10,000 disposable period products in your lifetime, with a year’s worth leaving a carbon footprint of 5.3 kg CO2 equivalent. Each of these products will take between 500 to 800 years to break down.

Now is as good a time as any to start thinking about zero-waste periods. Every small step helps when it comes to creating an eco-friendlier planet. If you can cut down on the amount of disposable period product waste going to landfills every single month, this can add up to thousands of products saved over your lifetime. 

But how eco-friendly are these products?

Well, the answer is quite simple, very!

Menstrual cups and discs can last anywhere from three to ten years and be used each day of your period. Many brands of period underwear and reusable pads can be worn upwards of 50 times. Say each pair or pad is used twice per cycle, these should last you at least two years depending on how regular your cycle is. 

If you were to change your routine to wearing period undies at night and either a reusable pad or a menstrual cup during the day, you aren’t producing any waste until a few years pass and you’ve met the recommended use of the product.

Check out reusable products available in Australia on The Red Pages. 

Say your period was to go for six days, over this time you may have used six overnight pads, 12 panty liners and 12 tampons. That’s 24 items that can never be re-used and are now headed into landfill every month.

Over two years one cup or disc, or 10 pairs of undies or reusable pads would have would prevent at least 575 items from ending up in landfill.

Cost per use comparison of single-use vs reusable period products

Now if this hasn’t already convinced you, let’s talk about costs. Pads and tampons have to be bought every month, whereas something like a menstrual cup or period undies only need to be bought every few years (up to 10 for a well-maintained cup). How amazing does it sound to not have to worry about purchasing pads or tampons ever again?

Choice has conducted a thorough cost review, but let’s also take a look at a breakdown of cost per use for common period items, with data from the ACT Government:

Chart outlines the cost of use for period items. Listed for each item in order: Average unit cost, No. of uses, and cost per use (CPU). Tampon cost: 50 cents, 1 use, 50 cents CPU. Disposable pad: 40 cents, 1 use, 40 cents CPU. Reusable pad: $20, 100 uses, 23 cents CPU. Period underwear: $25, 100 uses, 13 cents CPU. Menstrual cup: $40, 430 uses, 9 cents CPU.

Recycling reusable period products

Recycling menstrual cups and discs

Recycling your period cup or disc will depend on what it’s made of. 

If it’s made of medical-grade silicone there aren't many options to recycle it unfortunately. But because it’s silicone it won’t leak any chemicals which is a win. Plus, you’ve saved potentially THOUSANDS of products that take years to break down. So you’ve really done the best that you can at this time.

Lunette and Menstrual Cups Australia even suggest burning your cup, if you're having a bonfire or something sometime soon. The ash is then compostable.

If it’s made of TPE plastic, your cups or disc can be recycled anywhere that accepts number 7 plastics. Some cup makers, like Hello Cup, even have their own recycling program!

If it’s made of natural rubber, like Hevea from Biome, or the Keeper Cup, you can compost them!

Terracycle is a worldwide project that has options for recycling a range of products that’s worth looking into too.

Recycling period underwear and reusable pads

Heck yes! You can recycle these anywhere that does textile or fabric recycling. Planet Ark has a great resource to find somewhere near you.

Want to discover more?

Explore our database of everyone working towards menstrual equality in Australia.

Inclusivity note

Within this article, we may use the terms she, her, woman, girl or daughter. We understand that not all people with uteruses who are assigned female at birth menstruate, and not everyone who menstruates identifies as a female, girl or woman. For more information on this, please see our article about the importance of gender inclusivity when discussing periods and menstruation.

Let's get in touch

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.