On average, a woman will have roughly 400-500 periods in her lifetime. Sanitary napkins (also called pads) are the most frequently chosen menstrual product by women across the world and in India. 

Now, hold on to these two thoughts, and try to calculate the amount of menstrual waste generated every year in India, which easily runs into millions of discarded pads and tonnes of waste. 

Most pads contain a lot of plastic components, and thus are non-biodegradable. Tampons, a close second to pads in terms of use globally, also usually contain a plastic layer or are used with a plastic applicator, which adds to the non-biodegradable waste. 

If that makes you cringe, you are not alone! 

Plastic pollution is one of the world’s biggest environmental concerns. Caring for the environment and choosing ecological ways of life should be a priority for everyone, now more than ever. 

A lot of women have been looking for more ecological and sustainable alternatives for their menstrual hygiene. There are a variety of such options available and are being produced in India as well. 

Read on to find out more about eco-friendly menstrual hygiene products that you could choose.

1. Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are flexible, funnel-shaped cups made of medical-grade silicone that you can place inside the vagina during your menstrual cycle. 

The cup fits snugly in the vagina and collects the period blood. Menstrual cups are designed to hold 20-50 ml of blood. 

Depending on the flow, a menstrual cup can be worn for up to 12 hours. After this, the cup can be removed, emptied, cleaned, and re-used.


  • Affordable

  • Made of medically inert material

  • Can last for up to 10 years with proper care

  • Hold more blood than pads and tampons

  • No waste generated

2. Cloth Menstrual Pads

As the name suggests, these menstrual pads are made of cloth, instead of other components, including plastic, used in the standard sanitary napkins. 

Usually, these pads are made of cotton, have a cloth lining, and a super absorbent material like plant fibres. They are used in the same way as a standard napkin, but, after use, instead of discarding, they can be washed, dried, and used again. 

Cloth pads can easily be re-used for up to 3 to 5 years. Washing them thoroughly and drying them in the sun will ensure that the pads are clean and disinfected after every use. Some designs come with inserts and can be adjusted for days with different flows. 


  • Ideal for people who do not prefer to insert menstrual products

  • Can decompose in 6 to 8 months once discarded

  • Can be DIY-d (do it yourself) at home as per your requirement

  • Cost-effective

  • Available in a variety of colours and prints

3. Biodegradable Menstrual Pads

There are many menstrual pads that have no plastic in them. They use natural and biodegradable materials like hemp, bamboo, corn, or banana fibres as absorbents. Even the back sheet in these pads is made of natural materials, so the pads can decompose completely. 

They are devoid of all kinds of synthetic components, including rayon and perfumes found in standard sanitary napkins. The packaging of most of these pads is also plastic-free.


  • Ideal for people who do not prefer to insert menstrual products

  • Decompose completely

  • No plastic waste generated

  • Easier to make the switch from plastic pads to biodegradable pads

  • Require less preparation and maintenance than reusable pads

4. Period Panties

These panties look and feel like your normal underwear, but are leak-free, stain-free, and can be used on their own during periods. You do not need to stick a sanitary pad to these panties. 

Usually, these panties are made of three absorbent layers of special fabrics that pull liquid away from the body and hold it inside the underwear so that it does not leak out. They just need to be washed after use (preferably after every use), dried and re-used.


  • Fit and feel comfortable like normal panties

  • Ideal for people who do not prefer to insert menstrual products

  • Can be used for up to 2 years

  • One-time disposal and less waste generated

  • Cost-effective in the long-run

5. Plastic-Free Tampons

Many tampons, made of plant fibres and organic cotton, are now available and have fewer chemicals in them. 

Tampons are little plugs made of absorbent material (which may also contain plastic), which fit inside your vagina and soak up menstrual blood. They are usually inserted using an applicator. 

As these new tampons (made of plant fibres and organic cotton) do not have any extra chemicals in them, this reduces the chances of an infection when the tampon is placed inside your body. Also, the plastic applicators used with standard tampons can be replaced with eco-friendly alternatives such as cardboard applicators.

Reusable tampon applicators are available as well, which reduces the instances of discarding applicators after every use. 


  • No plastic waste generated

  • No harmful chemicals that can be absorbed by the vagina

  • Unscented, so good for the sensitive skin in the vagina

  • May lower the chances of toxic shock syndrome (a condition caused by bacterial toxins, which may result from the use of synthetic tampons)

  • Many organic cotton tampons are compostable (material that can biodegrade under specific, human-driven circumstances)

Every small step counts, and every little contribution adds up to the betterment of the planet. 

So, do your research, consult your gynaecologist if you are concerned about your choice of menstrual hygiene products, and choose the option which benefits you as well as the environment. 


1. Peberdy, E., Jones, A. and Green, D., 2019. A Study into Public Awareness of the Environmental Impact of Menstrual Products and Product Choice. Sustainability, 11(2), p.473.

2. Mahajan, T., 2019. Imperfect Information in Menstrual Health and the Role of Informed Choice. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 26(1-2), pp.59-78.

Disclaimer: This article is written by Practo for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.