Plastic Free Period product review – THINX period pants

A City to Sea volunteer Daisy gives THINX period pants a try and reports back. These are her thoughts on this increasingly popular product for managing your period…plastic free!

‘I try to live in as environmentally-friendly way as possible, even during my period. I first learnt about reusable period products at Sussex Uni where they give out free Mooncups. As different reusable period products have grown in popularity, I thought I’d give another plastic free product a go with; the THINX pants.

I feel that with all the threats the planet is currently facing, now is the time to move away from single-use plastic period pads and tampons (which includes most supermarkets own-brands, Lil-lets, Tampax, Always, Bodyform) and try something new.

I first starting using THINX pants a few months ago – I trialled their ‘Hiphuggers’ (which hold up to two tampons worth of blood) and their ‘Cheeky’ (one tampons worth). They’re a great ethical company that have a pay-it-forward scheme and are general do-gooders in the movement against period poverty. THINX aim to empower young women through their schemes – giving women access to period products and providing funding for programs and services that support under privileged people with periods, including survivors of domestic violence, refugees, and the homeless.

Trailing the pants…

When you receive your THINX order they come in a sweet little bag that contains all the care information you need. At the beginning I was apprehensive about wearing them out in public and getting caught short, but I needn’t have worried.

I’m so happy to have discovered period pants – no longer will I experience the mad panic whilst staying at my in-laws house that I haven’t got any tampons and a) have to pretend I need something from the shops or b) have to ask my boyfriends mum for a tampon.

During the first few days of my cycle I used the pants alongside a Mooncup and after that the pants worked great on their own. They are the comfiest pants I own now, and, I sleep in them, cycle to work in them and can go about my daily life without worrying if I’ll get nappy rash or if the product will need readjusting like pads.

I’m comfortable with period blood but I know that many people aren’t. What’s great about THINX pants is that you don’t see any of the blood. The blood is absorbed by the pants’ black fabric, which is only 3mm thick, so they’re even less ‘gory’ than the usual tampon or pad.

Something that gives me great comfort about period pants is that the fear of toxic shock syndrome is non-existent. I also work at festivals and my full-time job is alongside adults with learning disabilities – now I no longer watch the clock wondering when I last put my tampon in or worrying when my next break will be so I can change my pad.

The only downside … 

The only downside to these THINX period pants is that they take a long time to dry – you need more than a couple of pairs or to have a thought-through washing routine. Other than that, THINX are very easy to care for, you just rinse them in the sink and then throw them in the washing machine.

I understand that the up-front cost of THINX pants mean that they aren’t accessible to everyone (at £25-£30 a pair). There are other cheaper brands out there like Modibodi and Cheeky Wipes that cost between £10 – £20 and even offer swimwear. Also, research shows that over a lifetime an individual can save up to 94% of what would have been spent on disposable products.

In my experience, period pants are bloody awesome! They’re a trustworthy investment for anyone with periods and I will be investing in another couple of pairs to circulate on my next cycle. Rather than buying a new top or a jumper that you don’t really need, why not try a reusable period product instead, it will change your periods forever.

Find out more about City to Sea’s Plastic Free Period Campaign here.

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Bioplastics: A load of rubbish?

From balloons to disposable cups and cutlery to take away boxes, bioplastics are appearing as the supposed environmentally-friendly solution to plastic.

They allow you to enjoy the benefits of a disposable lifestyle but without the environmental price-tag. But is it that simple? Here at City to Sea we’ve taken a look at the issue and sorted the facts from the rubbish.

But first of all, what actually are bioplastics? To be called a bioplastic, a product has to be either biodegradable or made from plant-based materials. But being made from a plant doesn’t mean a product will degrade like a plant, and being biodegradable doesn’t mean a product will break down with food waste in the kitchen. In reality, most bioplastics need to be composted at very high temperatures over a period of several weeks in an industrial composter, and not at home in our garden compost as many of us think.

There are a couple of main types of bioplastics that you may have heard of, oxo-degradable and compostable. Oxo-degradable plastics are actually petroleum-based plastics that break down into lots of little pieces, yes that’s right- they turn into micro-plastics deliberately. Thankfully the EU Environment Committee is demanding these are banned by 2020. The second type of bioplastics are called ‘compostable plastics’. These aren’t made from oil, so that is a positive. However, despite the ‘compostable’ labelling they can’t be composted in your back garden but need to be industrially composted at high heat. Which means if your compostable balloon or straw ends up as rubbish in our oceans, rivers or natural environment, it won’t breakdown and will pose the same risks to wildlife as normal plastics.

Finally, there are home compostable bioplastics like cellophane. These can go in your home composter and will take 28-60 days to break down. However, if they go in your food caddy, which is then picked up by your local council, they will be removed as part of the depackaging process which prevents contamination from plastics as they don’t break down quick enough.

But if we process them responsibly are bioplastics OK?


The second big issue is that we don’t currently have significant infrastructure to compost bioplastics in the UK. The industrial composters that can break down compostable plastics are called in-vessel composters and there are currently only around 18 in the UK. These sites only accept waste that’s guaranteed not to be contaminated by oil-based plastics, which means the shipments need to come from closed environments (like festivals) which can guarantee the plastics have been kept separate.  Some café’s are offering take-back schemes to enable this too.

This leaves us consumers in a plastics pickle. Compostable bioplastics look exactly the same as oil-based plastics, so they often end up in the food bin or the recycling bin when actually, the only household bin they can go in is the general waste bin. Yes, that’s right, we’re expected to understand that ‘compostable’ doesn’t mean we can actually compost them. As clear as mud.

 

So, should we say bye-bye to bioplastics?

What all this means, is that while bioplastics might sound good, they are still a single-use material and there are extremely limited options to compost them. Ultimately, due the nature of when we tend to use bioplastics – as takeaway food containers and packaging – they end up in the bin and consequently in landfill.   The other issue is that as they don’t biodegrade outside of certain conditions they can still contribute to marine pollution if they become litter.

If compostable plastics are to become a viable alternative to oil-based plastics, there is a lot of work for the bioplastics and waste industries to do so they can better work together.

There are some positive innovations that should be celebrated and are fit for purpose– for example– in Indonesia they have developed a product using seaweed that dissolves harmlessly in water, which solves some of their issues with small sachets.

Our advice at City to Sea remains that refusing plastic and any single-use is the only solution. So choosing to refill and reuse are the best options. If your local cafe is using bio-plastic packaging, then treat it as you would traditional plastic and take your own reusable alternatives.

Check out our list of bioplastics FAQs to find out everything you need to know.

Livvy Drake is a Sustainability and Behaviour Change consultant. In her spare time, she can be found on her bike escaping to nature

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Launching the Less Plastic Lifestyle Collection

We’re beyond excited to launch our ‘Less Plastic Lifestyle Collection’ with our 1% for the Planet partner, Bear & Bear – an online retailer who sell products that are made for the outdoors and desined for life.  The Less Plastic Lifestyle Collection launches just in time for Christmas so you can find the perfect gifts for friends and family that they can use throughout the new year to reduce their plastic footprint.

Besides having supported our work throughout 2018, Bear & Bear have enabled us to reach an ambition of ours – launching our first ever collection for those looking to reduce their environmental impact and single-use plastic consumption. This ever-evolving collection includes all of the ‘must have’ items if you’re looking to start reducing your single-use plastic use, from bottles, cups and bamboo cutlery to rose gold metal straws and reusable coffee cups made from rice husk. If you’re already on the journey to living plastic free and want some more ideas for smart plastic alternatives, we’re also pretty confident you’ll see products in this collection which you may not have seen before.

Even better, at least 15% of every purchase is going to go towards supporting our campaigns to tackle plastic pollution at source.

Shop the collection here, and join the movement to reduce your plastic footprint. Don’t forget to like, share and tweet your comments and show us what small changes you’re making in everyday life to connect your actions to your oceans.

Running a business and want to get involved in supporting our work? Please get in touch with our Partnerships Manager at Alannah@citytosea.org.uk.

Happy Shopping!

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