Single-use menstrual products and their alternatives: Recommendations from Life Cycle Assessments

Single-use menstrual products and their alternatives: Recommendations from Life Cycle Assessments

Published: July 2021

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The report reviews Life Cycle Assessments of single-use menstrual products and their alternatives. It finds that reusable menstrual products have a lower environmental impact than single-use menstrual products. Especially the reusable menstrual cup is substantively better for the environment than other product options.

Another important finding from the report is that consumer behaviour greatly influences the environmental impact of both single-use and reusable menstrual products. For the reusable menstrual cup, the environmental lie mainly in the use phase, specifically through the washing and sterilizing of the cup. Consumers therefore have a lot of leverage over the environmental impact of the reusable cup. For single-use menstrual products the largest environmental impact occurs during the production of the materials that are used in the product and in the disposal practices. When comparing single-use pads with tampons, it was found that these have a similar environmental impact.  As menstrual protection as a human rights issue is gaining more attention and consumer awareness around the environmental impacts of these products is growing, policy makers must act decisively. It is important that policy makers consider the differences in environmental impacts across the various menstrual products options that exist, when developing gender responsive policies. The report is in response to a request by Member States at the Fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly in March 2019.

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