Flushable sanitary pads are now a thing and you can try them for free

Flushable sanitary pads are now a thing, all thanks to a new brand called Planera.

These pads really are a milestone for anyone who experiences periods. For years now we’ve seen reusable and eco-friendly sanitary products brought out, but nothing on the flushable front. 

This was something that bothered Planera’s co-founder Dr Olivia Ahn, who felt that it was the responsibility of brands to do better. 

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I really became quite frustrated that the responsibility had been pushed onto us, as the consumer, and I felt it wasn’t really our fault. We weren’t the ones producing it and we had a very limited choice when we went out to buy [sanitary] products – yes, we had different brands but the types of products were very limited – you had pads with wings or you had organic ones – they were better for us, but not necessarily for the environment.

‘Planera was really born out of a frustration towards these companies that I felt didn’t take any ownership of their responsibility.’

What’s more, Olivia realised that we do not dispose of other bodily waste in the same way as we do with sanitary products. 

She says: ‘We never put anything used in our bins, for example to put human waste in our bins – you would never put anything like that in a bin. We are so accustomed to doing it that it’s just become accepted.’

But the lightbulb moment for Olivia’s idea came to her when she was making a journey on a train. 

She adds: ‘It really came to me when I was on the train and that floating voice that comes out that says you can’t flush anything down the toilet, and I was like “well why can’t you? You flush toilet paper?!”

‘From my background in science, I was breaking it down in my head thinking there’s really nothing in a pad that shouldn’t be made to be flushable.’

So, in 2017, Olivia and her business partner Aaron Koshy got to work designing a fully flushable pad. Three years on and they’ve delivered what they set out to achieve.

Olivia says the reason it’s taken a while is because she wanted to be 100% confident in the materials used and she was determined not encounter other wider environmental problems faced by that brands who have set out on a similar mission.

She says: ‘We’ve worked closely with WRC (Water Research Centre) in the UK and they are the ones who do the flushability testing. We’ve been working with them for over two years to make sure that our products are 100% safe to flush, because we wanted to make sure the water system plants and sewage plants as well as people’s toilets themselves were going to be 100% OK. 

‘And when we got the certification a couple of months ago we were like “yep, this is now the point we are confident we can give them out to people to test out and try for themselves.”’

For those less scientifically clued-up, Olivia explains there are two main things which makes Planera’s sanitary towels flushable.

She says: ‘The first is the material themselves – so we use biodegradable plant fibres and these are essentially very short 3mm fibres which are spun together using a fancy process creating a flushable material. 

‘The second major factor that makes us flushable is that all sanitary pads are currently made with glue in between every single layer to ensure that it sticks together, this glue creates permanent bonds between the molecules so you can’t ever break them.’

‘We use a completely glue-less process, so there’s no other additives apart from the materials which are absolutely needed to absorb the blood. So that means we’ve been able to strip away all the glue, perfumes and everything else apart from the pad.’

Instead of glue, Planera uses construction adhesive between the layers which means they are welded together using friction.

The pads have also been designed to work in a one-way system, so they can absorb water but also break down when they hit water.

Olivia explains: ‘It’s essentially like a one-way system so when you have the pad and put it on your underwear, you’ll bleed from the top-down. Anything liquid – blood, urine, whatever – will get caught and made into a gel within the middle locking barrier. 

‘As soon as water hits from the bottom and moves up (so when you dunk it in water) that reverses it, so it’ll start to break apart because it’s gone back up through the wrong way in the one-way system.’

Extensive research and testing also went into the product – something which contributed to the three-year timeline. But Olivia says she’s incredibly satisfied with the performance of the pad and how absorbent it is.

She says: ‘The biggest challenge was to make sure we were as high-performing as other products on the market. 

‘Within the three year process we cracked how to make it flushable, but the last year and a half was increasing our absorption, so we absorb more than other products on the market. Because when we launched we didn’t want anyone to be worried about their flow or about the comparison to other products. 

‘So we got the no.1 selling pad in the UK and tested it against ours continuously until ours did better. The challenge was getting the balance right between making it flushable and making it very quick to disperse when you flush it away vs how much it can absorb and how stable it can be. 

‘Currently, with our labs, we test all products up to 24 hours – although I hope no one ever wears a product for that long. We wanted to be sure that if you missed that eight hour mark we would be there up to 24 hours.

‘Also making sure we absorb enough blood – we know that in an average period people bleed between 20-35ml in the entire five-seven day period and one of our pads can absorb 8ml. So we are very confident that even if you have a heavy flow on the heaviest day, we can absorb up to a third or a quarter of your entire period.’

Planera is currently running a trial period for customers to try out the pads and give feedback on the things they loved, as well as anything that could be improved e.g. different sizes etc.

Olivia says that after receiving this feedback the company will expand their production to roll out the pads on a much larger scale.

More information on Planera and the free trial can be found on the website.

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