Organic tampons are not a new addition to the menstrual health industry. The first company to introduce them in the UK was Natracare back in 1989, but for many people, they remain a relatively unknown concept.
It isn’t easy to find information on how organic tampons are different, how they should be used and disposed of, or how they impact the environment. I decided to create a guide to help you make a more informed decision about your menstrual health.
What are organic tampons?
Organic tampons are designed to be a more natural alternative to the disposable period products that have been the go-to option for decades. As the name suggests, they are tampons made from organic cotton that has never been treated with pesticides or insecticides.
As well as being chemical-free during early stages of production, organic tampons are free from any potentially harmful chemicals applied during the manufacturing process – such as dyes, fragrances or chlorine. Because of their emphasis on natural and sustainable ingredients, many brands even choose not to include an applicator.
Are organic tampons a healthier alternative?
Despite not yet having reached the same mass appeal as ‘regular’ tampons, organic tampons are growing in popularity. This is down to two main factors: the potential health benefits and the positive effect on the environment.
Healthy living is trendier than ever, and more of us are reading the labels on the food we buy and the products we use. It’s only natural that some people might want to use menstrual products that are less likely to cause their bodies or their planet harm.
Unfortunately, there is still no consensus as to whether organic tampons are any safer than cheaper, non-organic alternatives. There simply isn’t enough data available to come to a conclusion about whether or not the chemicals and pesticides used in the manufacturing and production process can cause long-term harm. Nevertheless, many people have reported that negative menstrual symptoms lessened after switching to organic products.
Some tampon brands also claim that the structural integrity of organic tampons is greater than that of their non-organic alternatives. This means that any residue from the tampon is less likely to remain inside the body after removal.
Regardless of whether there is enough evidence to prove that organic tampons are better for us, plenty of people simply feel more comfortable using natural menstural products in the same way that they feel better buying organic fruit from the supermarket.
What about the environment?
The truth is that we no longer have the luxury of ignoring the environmental impact of the things we consume every day. When the average person uses about 14,000 tampons in a lifetime, that creates a significant level of pollution.
Although many organic and non-organic menstrual product companies now offer applicator-free tampons, it is unrealistic to expect applicators to disappear from our shelves overnight. However, since organic tampons rely on sustainable materials, their applicators are typically made out of biodegradable cardboard or special plant-based sustainable materials rather than plastic.
When fewer pesticides, chemicals and harmful substances go into production processes, fewer toxins end up in landfill sites. By supporting organic production and manufacturing, we can create a positive ripple effect on the environment.
How does disposal work?
Unfortunately, your organic tampons may be biodegradable and sustainable, but that doesn’t mean you can start flushing them down the toilet. They can block drains and cause flooding or damage in the same way as other tampons.
Luckily, one of the environmental benefits of organic tampons is that they can, in theory, be composted along with your other compost waste. Just make sure to check packaging, as not all brands are compost-friendly. When in doubt, disposing of an organic tampon in a general waste or designated sanitary bin is perfectly acceptable, as it will still decompose within about six months.
As with any product, the important thing to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every organic tampon brand will have its own methods, ingredients and design. Take time to explore and try out what works best for you and makes your period the most comfortable.
Roxanne Phillips holds a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature and continues taking an interest in feminist topics by writing about women’s issues such as reproductive health and inequality.