Two thirds of women hide used period products in their handbags

Disposing of period products is causing women issues, new research has suggested. (Getty Images)
The disposal of period products is causing problems for many women. (Getty Images)

Periods are a natural part of life. So you'd think that now in 2023, we had reached a time in society where women felt more comfortable about using and disposing of menstruation products.

However it appears untrue. Recent research has highlighted that period stigma is still very much a thing, particularly when it comes to the challenges involved in the disposal of sanitary towels or tampons.

The study revealed that more than half of women and people that menstruate (58%) have had moments where they’ve struggled to find an appropriate place to dispose of their period products, with 70% revealing experiences where no sanitary bin has been available.

As a result, nearly two thirds of women (65%) have been forced to hide used period pads or tampons in their personal day-to-day bags until they found a suitable place, with one in four also stashing a used period product in a doggy poo bag when there has been no other option.

The poll, commissioned by the world’s only flushable period product Fluus, has shown that even when there is a bin available, over two-thirds of people (67%) get the "ick" when it comes to disposing of their used period products.

Read more: How does sex affect your period?

Meanwhile, some women have also encountered tricky situations even after proper disposal.

More than a quarter (26%) of those questioned said they have experienced "trash traumas" in the form of small children and dogs taking used period pads and tampons out of the bin.

Women are hiding used sanitary products in their bags. (Getty Images)
Some women are experiencing 'trash trauma' when it comes to disposing their sanitary products. (Getty Images)

When it comes to dating, those surveyed also said they feel embarrassed to leave their period products in the bin.

One in 10 claimed they didn’t want to leave a trace of it at their date’s house and a similar group (11.8%) felt uncomfortable leaving them at a partner’s home.

This discomfort and the lack of facilities is resulting in women getting rid of their used products down the toilet, despite almost all being unflushable.

Over a third of women (37%) admit to flushing a pad or tampon, and of those who flush over half (52%) stated they do it monthly, with nearly a quarter (23%) finding it more convenient.

Turns out Gen X (those aged 42-57) are the biggest flushers, with almost half (47%) of British women in this age bracket admitting to having flushed a period product compared to only 20% of women aged 16-17.

The problem is, however, this is having a huge impact on Britain’s ecosystems, with a third of women (33%) surveyed stating that they’d seen a period product in British waterways.

Thankfully, it seems younger consumers are seeking out more eco-friendly products, with nearly three quarters of Gen Zs (74%) thinking about a brand’s sustainability credentials before buying.

Read more: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder made me depressed and suicidal – for half the month

There aren't always sanitary bins provided in public toilets. (Getty Images)
Women are being forced to stash used sanitary products in their bags if there are no bins to dispose of them in. (Getty Images)

However, it seems sustainability isn’t as much of a priority for Gen X, with only 58% admitting that sustainability influences their purchasing decisions.

In terms of period care specifically, more than three quarters of women in the UK (78%) are concerned about the environmental impact of their period products, which is important as the period sanitaryware industry is a huge contributor of waste.

Conventional disposable menstrual products are made from 90% plastic, and plastic products take hundreds of years to decompose, meaning the waste will stay in landfill for over 500 years.

Watch: Eco-friendly couple spend £8 a month on water bills after ditching loo roll and re-using shower water

Approximately 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet in the UK every single day, according to figures published in the Journal of the Institution of Environmental Sciences.

This equates to around 200,000 tonnes of sanitary waste produced every year in the UK, with 30% ending up in our waterways and 56% in landfills.

In fact sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches, more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws.

Thankfully, there are now options available that will not only save you in moments where proper disposal isn’t available, but will also help protect the environment.

Following on from other more sustainable menstruation products, Fluus has created a pad that disappears entirely.

It’s the only period product that breaks down in the toilet, similar to loo roll. With the power of the toilet flush, Fluus pads break down into plant fibres and biodegradable materials, which means no permanent waste is left behind, as opposed to the microplastics and chemicals left by other period products.

“Our waste should not outlive us," Aaron Koshy, co-founder of Fluus, comments. "A pad that is used for 8 hours should never stick around for 500 years. We spent the last 5 years developing the only certified flushable pad that is 15% more absorbent than the market-leader, and breaks down in days, not centuries.”

Read more: Can your period really get stuck?

Image of Fluss flushable sanitary towels. (Packshot Factory Ltd)
Flushable sanitary towels are here. (Packshot Factory Ltd)

While flushable pads are a huge step forward in the drive for more sustainable periods, there are also other period products that are more eco-friendly than traditional sanitary towels and tampons.

We’ve all heard about reusable coffee cups, but did you know you can get reusable tampon applicators?

British organic tampon company DAME has a reusable applicator. The idea is you use, rinse and reuse the applicator, instead of throwing away countless plastic ones every month.

If tampons aren’t your thing, you can also get reusable pads which you pop in the washing machine after using them.

And of course you could always give a menstrual cup or period pants a whirl.

The good news is these can also help you save money, with one menstrual cup predicted to last up to 10 years and period pants for five years.

So while the upfront spend may be more, ultimately you’ll save money in the long run, with some estimating you could save £128 a year by switching to a menstrual cup – all while saving the planet too.