Feminine hygiene products are required around the world by people who menstruate. Most people who menstruate, will usually menstruate once a month, every month and will have around 450 periods in their lifetime. This roughly equates to 3,500 days spent menstruating. That’s over 10,000 period products in one lifetime! 
It is thought that the first feminine hygiene products were made in 1896 by Johnson & Johnson, called ‘Lister’s Towels’, also known as ‘Sanitary Napkins for Ladies’. These were the first disposable and commercially sold pads and were manufactured out of cotton and gauze. 
There are now many different types of feminine hygiene products that can be used:
- Sanitary towels
- Menstrual cup (Moon cup)
- Period pants
Everyone has their preference of favourite products to use, but there are a lot of factors to think about when choosing your feminine hygiene products, such as:
- Quality and protection against accidents
Sustainable Menstruation Products
Most recently, sustainability has also become a deciding factor when choosing which products to use. Sanitary towels and tampons are single use only products and once used, they must be thrown away in a sanitary bin or a normal bin. Menstrual cups, also known as Moon cups and period pants are the most obvious answers to sustainable menstruation products as they can be used again and again for each cycle. Moon cups can be washed and then boiled for sanitation and period pants can be washed in the washing machine or hand washed.
Most period products on the market today are made from cotton and plastic that can take between 500 to 800 years to break down. If everyone who menstruates uses over 10,000 period products in their lifetime, that’s an awful lot of products going to landfill.
The Eco-Friendly Revolution
Some companies are trying to revolutionise feminine hygiene products by developing eco-friendly products that are just as safe to use but aren’t damaging to the environment either. Some of these new products are now made from organic cotton and are plastic-free, meaning they will biodegrade much quicker than synthetic fibres.
Whilst period pants and Moon cups 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 around 30 buildings and bathrooms across their campus. The dispensers provide both pads and tampons for free. The pads are made from 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 a company called Joni, based in Vancouver that uses compostable and biodegradable materials out of organic bamboo.
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. 
An estimated 28,114 tonnes of waste are generated annually from menstrual products. If we could even half the waste generated from single use menstrual products that contain plastics and won’t decompose, we could drastically reduce the amount of waste sitting in landfill. These new eco-friendly feminine hygiene products have proved that we can still use the same methods, such as tampons or sanitary towels, without the excessive use of plastics, whilst helping to save the planet and maintaining comfort levels for those who need these products.
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