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  • Writer's pictureEmily Burton

Plastic-Free Periods: All You Need to Know

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Did you know that one pack of sanitary pads contains up to five plastic bags worth of single-use plastic?

Or that an individual gets through approximately 11,000 pads and tampons in a lifetime? And every year, 200,000 tonnes of disposable period products end up in landfill?

Menstruating has been claimed to cost each of us up to £18,000 over a lifetime and costs the planet a lot more. It’s time we made a change towards a more sustainable period.

Why plastic-free periods?

At the Refill Pantry, our ethos is always to choose to reuse, and menstrual products are no exception. Disposable period products are one of the biggest culprits of single-use plastics, taking about 500 years to decompose. This means that if Jane Austen had used them, they would still be decomposing today!

Not only this, but no period product should ever be flushed down the loo - yet can you believe that 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 pantyliners are put down the toilet every single day in the UK! Imagine the effect that has when it blocks our drains, costing us around £90 million every year on our water bills, and overflowing into our rivers and seas, causing environmental pollution and costing the lives or so many marine animals. Ocean plastic kills around 1 million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals every year. Despite being the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches (straws are number seven!), period products are often left out of conversations around plastic pollution.

The picture so far is bleak. But luckily there is cause for hope: plastic-free period products are on the rise and are turning the tide on the damage from conventional pads and tampons. So what are you waiting for? In the rest of this blog, we will discuss the benefits of sustainable period products and reveal some of our favourite brands.

What are sustainable period products?

The period product market consists of:

1. Reusable pads and tampons made from organic cotton and other natural, sustainably-sourced materials

2. Menstrual cups: small, funnel-shaped silicone cups, easily inserted and emptied once or twice a day.

3. Period-proof pants: the latest ingenious invention. After trying a pair you may never look back!

Not only are they better for the planet, but by making the switch to reusable alternatives, you will save a huge amount of cash in the long-term. The typical pad or tampon is used for 4-8 hours, and is estimated to cost each of us up to £18,000 over a lifetime, meanwhile these products last for years!

Brands we love

We love OrganiCup’s award-winning menstrual cups. They have revolutionised the menstrual cup into a classy brand around one simple, no-fuss product.

Need to Know:

· Their cups come in three sizes:

o Mini- 37mm diameter, recommended for teens

o A- 40mm diameter, recommended for women who haven’t given birth vaginally

o B- 45mm, recommended for women who have given birth vaginally.

o Don’t know which size to get? Take their quiz to help you find out.

· There is lots of helpful info on their website, with clear videos, step-by-step instructions and helpful insertion tips for first-time users

Stand out:

· You can wear an OrganiCup for up to 12 hours, meaning you can swim, exercise, sleep and do anything else knowing that your period is sorted.

· Long term value: two years of using OrganiCup is equivalent to buying 528 pads or tampons!

The world’s original organic and natural period products.

Need to Know:

· Dubbed “The grandmother of plastic free periods ”, Natracare is a world first, founded in 1989 by Susie Hewson. Hear more from Susie on how she started Natracare and how the products are made in the short video below:

Stand Out:

· They have a huge range of products, made from organic cotton, sustainable wood pulp and plant starch. Their tampons are made of 100% certified organic cotton, meaning no pesticides.

· All of their products are free from chlorine, perfumes, dyes and of course plastic, and the full range is certified vegan by the Vegetarian Society.

· They are not only a brand but also sustainability activists. Last year, Natracare teamed up with plastic-free period campaigner Ella Daish to campaign for all period products to be made plastic-free. Sign the petition here .

Started by mum Helen in 2008 in search of skin friendly, reusable baby wipes, Cheeky Wipes has since expanded its offering to makeup removal pads (which we also stock) and a huge range of sustainable sanitary products. Since 2016, Cheeky Wipes have saved over 28 million disposable sanitary products and 22 million packets of baby wipes from landfill!

Need to Know:

· Their period protection products are made from cotton, bamboo and microfleece, in varying thickness. To find out which one is best suited to you, fill (out) in their detailed Reusable Period Protection Advice Questionnaire , their expert staff will personally respond and recommend with tailored recommendations.

Stand Out:

· Their period pads come in a variety of funky patterns and designs.

· Their aim is to make “reusables for the masses”, and their period products are perhaps the most economical on the market, starting at just £3.

Say hello to latest addition to our stock at The Refill Pantry. Hey Girls is a mother-daughter start-up specialising in a range of sustainable menstrual products.

Need to Know:

· Their period pads are made from two layers of micro-fibre bamboo, with high-performing fabric to prevent leaks.

Stand Out:

· Hey Girls are committed to tackling period poverty in the UK, so for every product sold, one is donated to girls and young women in the UK from low-income families as part of the “Buy One Give One” social enterprise scheme.

· Since launching Hey Girls in 2018, they have donated over 11.5 million period products to communities across the UK through partner community organisations, homeless shelters, food banks and other charities.

Although we don’t stock this brand, we had to give a shout out to WUKA Wear, set up locally in St Albans by Ruby Raut. “Neither sustainability nor periods are a luxury”, says Ruby, who decided to produce the UK’s first ever reusable and leak-proof period pants.

Need to Know:

· WUKA is a female-led start up, and stands for Wake Up Kick Ass, because “we believe that nothing should hold you back on your period.”

· Their materials are all sustainably sourced, ranging from organic cotton to econyl made from ocean waste plastic.

Stand Out:

· WUKA Period Pants resemble your regular underwear, but are able to absorb up to 2-3 tampons worth of period blood. Plus you can wear them for up to 8 hours without any leaks!

· Each pair of WUKA Period Pants stops 200 disposable pads and tampons from polluting the ocean or going to landfill.

Click here to order from WUKA Wear

We hope you are now as convinced as we are to make the switch to planet and purse-friendly alternatives, because periods shouldn’t cost the earth- literally!

For more details, see our full stock list below:


· Size A

· Size B

· Mini


· Regular Applicator Tampons

· Super Tampons

· Regular Tampons

· Curved Panty Liners

· Ultrapads Normal

· Ultrapads Super

· Ultra Extra Pads

Cheeky Wipes

· Panty Liner

· Day Pad

· Night Pad

Hey Girls

· Reusable Day Pads

· Reusable Night Pads

· Reusable Panty Liners

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