A Study into Public Awareness of the Environmental Impact of Menstrual Products and Product Choice
1.1. Factors Affecting Choice
1.2. Existing Research into Awareness of Environmental Impact
1.3. Study Aim and Research Question
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Online Surveys
2.2. Focus Groups
2.3. Possible Sources of Bias and Mitigation Methods
3.1. Online Surveys
3.1.1. Levels of Awareness
- 39% did not know that non-organic tampons can contain plastic.
- 64% did not know that organic tampons do not contain plastic.
- 85% did not know organic menstrual products can be composted.
3.1.2. Link between Awareness and Choice
3.2. Focus Groups
4. Discussion and Conclusions
Conflicts of Interest
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|Inorganic tampon with/without applicator||Worn inside the body to absorb menstrual fluid. The main absorbent body of the tampon is commonly made from cotton or rayon and often has a thin outer layer of synthetic fibre (polyethylene and polypropylene) to prevent fibre loss and create a smoother surface. There is a cord attached for removal, made from polyester or polypropylene. Applicators can be made from card or plastic . One tampon can be used for 4–8 h, then it should be disposed of in a bin .|
|Organic tampon with/without applicator||Used in the same way as a non-organic tampon, but the main absorbent body of the tampon and the attached string is made from organic cotton. Applicators are made from cardboard . One tampon can be used for 4–8 h then it should be disposed of in a bin or composted.|
|Inorganic disposable pads||Worn outside the body using an adhesive strip to fix the product to underwear. Made up of various layers. A permeable top layer made from a polymer such as polypropylene or polyethylene, an absorbent layer made of cellulose, a ‘super absorbent polymer’ or ‘smart foam’ inner core (different brands give different names to this part but do not reveal the ingredients) and a polyethylene bottom layer [16,17]. One pad can be used for 4–6 h depending on flow and should be disposed of in a bin.|
|Organic disposable pads||Worn in the same way as inorganic disposable pads, fixed to underwear with adhesive strip. Absorbent cellulose centre and cotton top layer. One pad can be used for 4–6 h depending on flow and should be disposed of in a bin or composted .|
|Reusable pads||Worn outside the body and fixed to underwear using poppers. Made from layers of absorbent fabric. Can be made from natural fibres such as cotton and bamboo, or from synthetic fibres such as polyester. Pads can be worn for 4–6 h and should be washed after each use. They will last approximately 5 years .|
|Menstrual cup||Worn inside the body to collect menstrual fluid. Made from medical grade silicone or natural rubber and available in two sizes. Cups can be worn for 12 h before emptying, should be sanitised after each monthly use and can last up to 10 years .|
|Period pants||Worn as regular underwear. Can be made from natural fibres such as cotton or synthetic fibres. Contains a top layer of cotton, an inner layer of ‘super-absorbent’ fabric and an outer leak-resistant layer . Products are available in a range of sizes, shapes and absorbencies, should be washed after each use and will last approximately 2 years .|
|True/False Question||% with Correct Answer|
|High Awareness||Low Awareness||Average of All Participants|
|It is OK to flush tampons (f)*||89.2%||59.5%||80%|
|If an item is biodegradable there is no environmental impact (f)*||90.8%||61.9%||81.7%|
|Non-organic tampons can contain plastic (t)||68.5%||59.5%||68.3%|
|Disposable non-organic pads have the highest environmental impact because they generally contain the most plastic (t)||70%||64.3%||69.7%|
|Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years (t)*||80.8%||35.7%||62.7%|
|Cardboard tampon applicators can be recycled (f)||42.6%||40.5%||38.5%|
|Organic tampons can be composted (t)||15.4%||11.9%||16%|
|Manufacturers of menstrual products are not required to list ingredients (t)||55.8%||45.2%||50.2%|
|Does the Item Contain Plastic?||% with Correct Answer|
|High Awareness||Low Awareness||Average of All Participants|
|Disposable non-organic pads||93.8%||64.3%||84.9%|
|Reusable cotton pads||69.5%||64.3%||65.9%|
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Peberdy, E.; Jones, A.; Green, D. A Study into Public Awareness of the Environmental Impact of Menstrual Products and Product Choice. Sustainability 2019, 11, 473. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020473
Peberdy E, Jones A, Green D. A Study into Public Awareness of the Environmental Impact of Menstrual Products and Product Choice. Sustainability. 2019; 11(2):473. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020473Chicago/Turabian Style
Peberdy, Elizabeth, Aled Jones, and Dannielle Green. 2019. "A Study into Public Awareness of the Environmental Impact of Menstrual Products and Product Choice" Sustainability 11, no. 2: 473. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020473