Menstrual cups to period underwear: Here’s how to practice sustainable menstruation

Did you know menstrual products such as pads and tampons take hundreds of years to decompose? They are extremely harmful to the environment. Here's how you can switch to sustainable menstruation and do your bit for the planet.
On World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023, learn more about sustainable menstruation practices. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Dr Sujata Uday-Rajput Published: 25 May 2023, 07:11 pm IST

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Menstruation or monthly period is a normal biological process experienced by millions of women every month. Maintaining good menstrual health and hygiene is of utmost importance during each monthly cycle. Each woman menstruates for an average of 40 years, for which she might use sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, menstrual discs, and period underwear, which amounts to the excessive generation of menstrual waste in a single woman’s menstrual life. This, in turn, results in significant waste and environmental pollution as the discarded pads and tampons are not biodegradable. This is the reason you should switch to sustainable menstruation.

Sustainable menstruation simply means using environment-friendly and responsible biodegradable products during periods. It means the usage of alternate products during one’s menstrual cycle for the benefit of the health of women and environment.

Sustainable menstruation is important to tackle period poverty

In India, around 50 percent of women use cloth during periods, which is not considered hygienic as per the National Family Health Survey India (2019-21).
Period poverty is a major health concern as it results in unhealthy and unhygienic menstrual practices which increases the risk of developing health issues like reproductive and urinary tract infections. The myths and taboos about menstruation further add to the burden.

How to switch to sustainable menstruation for the sake of the environment. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

It is time we switch to products that are safe for both health of women and the environment.

The most common ways of disposing off sanitary waste practised routinely are disposing it along with routine waste, flushing in washrooms, burning in the open with dry waste, or even burial in the ground. The sanitary pads and tampons that are easily available in the market take hundreds of years to decompose and because of the super absorbent polymer material used, they retain thirty or more times their weight in fluid. This means that they stay in the ground, not decomposing, and sucking in water, stopping its natural flow and thus disturbing the ecosystem.

Also Read: Period hygiene: 6 reasons to change your sanitary pad every 4 hours

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The negative impact of these commercially used products on the environment makes it necessary to switch to products that are either reusable, easily biodegradable, and environment friendly.

How to switch to sustainable menstruation?

Sustainable menstruation can be achieved with the use of products such as reusable cotton pads, menstrual cups, and compostable pads which are made from agricultural waste and are easily biodegradable in 90- 180 days when disposed of correctly.

The use of biodegradable products will revolutionise menstrual waste management and significantly reduce environmental pollution. It is of utmost importance that each and every menstruating girl or woman is adequately educated about the usage and disposal, and has easy and affordable access to these products.

Make your periods more eco-friendly with these options

To have a more eco-friendly periods, one doesn’t have to eliminate pads and tampons from the period routine completely. You can mix and match menstrual products as per one’s individual needs. One can definitely use options to reduce sanitary waste!

Switch to menstrual cups if you want to switch to sustainable menstruation. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

These are some of the sustainable menstruation products to pick from:

  • Menstrual Cups: These are made of silicone, can last up to 10 to 12 years, and are safe. Plus, they are easy to use: dump, rinse, and reinsert a cup.
  • Reusable Pads: These are thin and flexible, but can absorb more than a regular disposable pad, and can also last up to 3-5 years. They are safe and easy to use: dump, rinse, and dry.
  • Period Underwear: They are affordable with good absorption capacity and washable for reuse.


Another advantage of using these products is that they can significantly reduce the financial burden every month for the woman. To summarise sustainable menstruation – it is eco-friendly, has health benefits, and is budget-friendly. A single step from each woman will make a significant change in revolutionising menstrual waste management and achieving sustainable menstruation.

Dr Sujata Uday-Rajput

Dr Sujata Uday-Rajput is a senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in SB Road, Pune. ...Read More

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