When we think of landfill we usually think of white goods and household waste but it seems that not much consideration is given to sanitary protection.  On single woman will use around 11,000 sanitary towels and tampons in her lifetime.  In just one year 4.3 billion sanitary items are disposed of in the UK. When one considers that there are an estimated 15 million women who are of menstrual age in the UK this means a lot of landfill.

Not only this but in many cases these products also include a highly absorbent chemical made from petroleum or wheat. Some use recycled paper, which sounds great. Sadly this uses bleaching to give the ‘clean’ white colour that pads have, and the chemical used is often dioxin -known to compromise women’s health. There is also the consideration of the amount of energy it takes to make these products as well as the waste and by products that need to be disposed of.

So what better way to reduce landfill, re-cycle, re-purpose and create something that benefits the environment as well as the person? Hand-made sanitary pads! These are exactly what we made at a festival workshop in April. Guided by Cat Bellinger, a dedicated re-purposer, recycler and queen inventions, we were guided through the simple stages of cutting out a shape, sewing the relevant layers and making a button hole for the button attachment. Even those of us who were stitch-craft numptys managed to whip up a pad made entirely from clean recycled pyjamas, bath towels, cloth nappies and old dresses.

Sanitary Towel

 There is a science to it though; it is useful to know what type of fabric to put where in order to make the one piece pad as absorbent as possible (attach the inside material to the towelling inside, and then sew it separately to the fleece backing). It is also helpful to do a few extra stiches in specific places to ensure the pads and their padding stay in one place and do not move around. All this makes for a more comfortable wear, which is important. All pads were hand stitched but there is the option to use a sewing machine if preferred.

Menstruation isn’t really a subject that gets talked about much, but to sit in a room with other women and be open about our experience of mooncups, childbirth and subsequent ‘flow’ as well as the menopause and experience of menses was much like I imagine a Red Tent experience. The session was gratifying as well as practical. I shall be making more as gifts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frfWGdPX_yw Toxins in sanitary pads

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGmA71o7p5s How disposable sanitary pads are made.

Yvette de Silva.