“Biodegradable” or “CO2-neutral” – these terms come to mind when talking about “environmentally sustainable”. Like our nature and it's ecosystem, the topic is much more complex than we think.
We often believe that we are already doing the right thing ecologically and unknowingly commit new environmental sins again and again. For example, many consider glass containers to be a sustainable form of packaging. This applies to reusable glass, on the other hand, one-way glass has a worse environmental balance than plastic packaging.
Since every human activity - be it private or commercial - has an impact on the environment, there are hardly any aspects in the area of sustainability that can be assessed as positive or negative. For this reason, we never, ever, presume to call ourselves or others sustainable or unsustainable. However, in order to be as transparent as possible to our customers, below you will find a summary of considerations and approaches in relation to the sustainability of neversoft Soft- Tampons and nevernot as a company.
From fossil to renewable raw materials
Nevernot Soft-Tampons are currently made from polyurethane foam, i.e. from a petroleum-based plastic. Unfortunately, they are not biodegradable and should be disposed of with the residual waste. Since they're dirty, used Soft-Tampons do not belong in the recycling bin, as sometimes advertised by some companies.
Before a plastic product gets disposed of it's manufacture already has an impact on the environment. About 8% of the oil produced worldwide goes into plastic production.
There are more and more attempts to obtain plastics from renewable raw materials. However, the criticism here is that these raw materials, which often come from the food sector (e.g. corn, potatoes), are no longer available as food.
And even with plant-based materials, cultivation requires land, energy, water, fertilizers and pesticides, all of which can harm the environment in a variety of ways. Cotton in particular, which is used for most conventional tampons, uses 10,000 to 17,000 liters of water per kg. With the popular organic cotton, it is often even more. In the case of plastics, it is around 10 liters per kg.
At nevernot, we are currently working on alternative materials in order to be able to significantly reduce the consumption of petroleum in our production and the CO2 emissions in our processes from the beginning of 2022.
No packaging is no solution either
When it comes to packaging, the majority calls to simply omit plastic materials or replace them with more sustainable alternatives. In many areas this makes sense and can be done, but in others the omission of packaging can actually do more harm than any good. After all, marketing purposes aside, there are good reasons why many products are packaged in plastic, such as food perishability or hygiene requirements for certain goods.
It's quite similar with nevernot. While some organic tampon brands pack their products in paper, this isn't a solution for our Soft-Tampons, unfortunately. The used foam is more sensitive to environmental influences than cotton - especially to UV radiation - and needs a special film for protection in order to not lose it's quality within a few weeks. If our customers had to throw away their remaining Soft-Tampons every few months - and we at nevernot had to throw out our entire inventory - the math is very simple: we would produce far more waste and energy than the packaging itself.
With our current packaging, we make sure that it is easy to recycle since it's not a matter of course. Packaging materials often consist of so-called composites, i.e. combinations of different types of plastic. It is usually not economical and often even impossible to separate these compounds again in order to achieve the sorting purity that is necessary for recycling. Our packaging therefore consists of the most homogeneous materials possible, which can be recycled in the usual recycling plants.
In addition, we are already working full speed on gradually switching to biodegradable packaging from early 2022 while maintaining the quality and safety of our products.
Regional and climate-neutral
From the product to the packaging, all production steps at nevernot take place in Germany. In this way, we can not only guarantee consistently high quality but also keep our CO2 emissions as low as possible. In order to offset the greenhouse gases that still occur nevernot works together with Climate Partner. (here you'll find information on the CO2 offset projects we support as part of our cooperation here.)
Is Germany the world champion?
Even after they have been used, sustainable handling of plastics is more complicated than you might think. Some of us only see the enourmos amount of plastic in the ocean while others are already celebrating Germany's supposedly high recycling rates. Once again the truth lies in between.
In fact, more waste is sorted in Germany than anywhere else in the world - but what happens afterwards is less rosy. According to Greenpeace, only 15% of the plastic collected is actually recycled. Another part is thermally recycled, i.e. the plastic is used as fuel for industrial or district heating systems. At least in this country, the filters used in these processes are now good enough that almost no pollutants are released into the air. Only small amounts of incineration residues remain, which are mostly stored in old mines or similar until a solution for their further processing is found.
The bigger problem, however, is that Germany (like almost all large industrial nations) still sells a large part of it's waste to Asia and Africa. Waste management in the buyer countries is still hardly regulated and the landfills are largely unsecured. This is how plastic from Germany ends up in the sea and with uncontrolled combustion processes, pollutes the air we breathe in countries whose inhabitants can't protect themselves.
By the way: the compostable bio-plastic is quite popular but unfortunately it sounds too good to be true. Biodegradation of these materials require a very humid and warm environment which is not often found in nature or in landfills. Although the municipal composting facilities (where our organic waste ideally ends up) would have the right conditions to compost bio-plastic, most of it doesn't end up there in the first place. Unfortunately, most plants can't yet distinguish between biodegradable and conventional plastic therefore sort out the materials together which leds to a fed back processes described above.
In order to compensate for the plastic waste nevernot produced so far, we support the "Plastic Bank" project via Climate Partner. The organization has 21,000 plastic collectors from coastal communities in Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia who collect plastic from the sea and beaches to buy it from them. Doing this, Plastic Bank creates a positive effect on the environment and also offers inhabitants of poorer coastal regions a new source of income.
Wellbeing comes first
On the bottom line sustainability is important in every area of our lives and should be a long-term goal for every company. However, everyone should be aware that the feminine hygiene industry is by no means one of the biggest sources of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. On the contrary, much greater effects could be achieved through more sustainable management in the textile and oil industries or in the field of data processing (keyword: Internet server).
During the period many menstruating women are struggling with symptoms which is why their well-being should come first. While menstrual cups, washable pads or period underwear are a good solution for many, nobody should feel ashamed if they don't get along with these products or rather find them unhygienic.
The period is a very personal issue that is perceived and experienced differently by every menstruator. This means that the decision for a period product must also be individual. Nevernot products, along with many other feminine hygiene items, offer another option to make periods more comfortable and give menstruators more freedom - at any time of their cycle.
Do what you want. nevernot.
P.S.: We can't have our eyes and ears everywhere and are happy about any support. So if you have specific ideas or tips on how we can make our products more sustainable, please send us an email to email@example.com..