Natracare is a natural menstrual product brand founded by Susie Hewson in 1989, who aimed to approach the market of period products from a more environmentally aware standpoint. She was a pioneer in the reform of plastic-based products, developing an alternative in order to avoid “the dangers of dioxin pollution and the damaging impact of plastics”, creating an alternative that could be naturally disposed of as well. As period products happen to be the fifth most common item found on European beaches, the use of completely biodegradable and natural materials is immensely impactful in this industry.
This brand has made incredible strides in the menstrual and personal care industry, achieving plastic-free production and creating products that can be disposed of without the harmful impact on the planet. As a testimony to these efforts, Natracare has earned dozens of certifications and awards for its commitment to creating an environmentally friendly solution to the natural processes women have to face throughout their lives. As a result of these accomplishments, Natracare earns a 3 overall.
To curb the stark statistics of plastic waste stemming from the 45 billion menstrual products that are used each year, Natracare pads, tampons, and wipes are made entirely of “renewable, biodegradable and compostable materials”. This is to evade the risk plastic poses to marine wildlife, which is directly impacted by the incorrect disposal as well as the abundance of plastic products in circulation. On the other hand, many of the plastics used in period products, in general, contain harmful toxins, and also are “so durable that they’re often worn for far too long.” This also potentially promotes “unbalanced bacterial growth and leads to dermatitis style symptoms”.
All of the cotton they use is 100% certified organic, which happens to be the only ingredient in their tampons and wet wipes, whilst their liners and pads are constructed of an organic cotton cover. In addition, the absorbent core of their products is made of PEFC certified wood pulp. The PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) promotes sustainable forest management through local and independent third-party certification, meaning that Natracare’s providers are “managed in order to preserve biodiversity and benefit the lives of local people and workers”. The wood pulp is thus naturally absorbent and chemical-free. As a final important natural ingredient, plant starch replaces the plastic backing which prevents leakage in traditional period products, eliminating the use of unnecessary plastic polymers. This layer is “a home compostable, certified biopolymer made from GM-free plant starch – a renewable resource, and a solution to waste disposal problems associated with traditional petroleum-derived plastics”. Otherwise, the material is also found in their wrappers and liners.
Apart from the core ingredients which are used in the structure of their products, Natracare excludes artificial perfume, dyes, and ECF bleaching, which includes chlorine in the process. The latex in the wings of a typical pad is also made of cotton in a Natracare pad. These are all other elements that purify the makeup of their products in comparison to mainstream menstrual products. The environmental consciousness and appropriate certification behind each item warrant a 3 for what Natracare products are made of.
The general principles of the brand provide insight into the way their products are made, the treatment of their staff, and the environmental considerations that are applied throughout this process. For instance, traditional pads are often bleached using an ECF or Elemental Chlorine Free method, although the process is not chlorine-free. As aforementioned, the Natracare pad uses a completely chlorine-free approach, reducing the risk of toxic substances which could harm the body.
The products are made with full accountability for environmental values from subcontracted manufacturers, taking into consideration a number of points which include: ‘agricultural and forest-related economic, cultural and social values, full life cycle analysis to help minimise load on nature and keeping a soft footprint approach, maintaining biodiversity in the ecosystems they come into contact with, and sustaining internationally and nationally approved principles’. These objectives and the implementation of the principles are all proven and displayed through certifications and international recognition.
In order to maintain these values, Natracare ensures that the agricultural sources of raw materials are all GMO free, ISO, and PEFC certified. In terms of sourcing these materials, they also try to keep the source as close as possible to the place where they will be processed, manufactured, and eventually distributed. It goes without saying, but they do not and never have tested on animals, and they make sure that every manufacturer they collaborate with adheres to these standards.
As aforementioned, Susie Hewson is the founder of Natracare, and she has strived to shape her brand around eco-friendly solutions for the menstrual product industry, which utilises an immense amount of plastic polymers. Susie herself stated, “In the 1980s I learnt about the dangers of dioxin pollution and the damaging impact of plastics. I was appalled to find my period products contained all these ingredients, and no natural disposable option existed. My immediate response was to research and develop an alternative that actually respected our bodies and our planet”.
In 1993, Susie herself worked with the Soil Association to “develop the world’s first global organic regulations for menstrual products” too, and by 1994 it was proven that Natracare’s 100% cotton tampons reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. Among these achievements, the company has received a striking amount of certifications and awards, some of the most innovative being from creating “ the first-ever certified Fine to Flush moist toilet tissue to meet the UK Water Industry standard WIS 4-02-06”.
Natracare has since incorporated only organic and natural materials into their production process, committing to high ethical standards “whether focussed on organic principles or biodegradability”. The company also went entirely plastic-free by 1995. Their supply chain consists completely of raw materials and processing, earning them top rankings by the Ethical Company Organisation for their work. This commitment and awareness gives Natracare a 3, due to the intent of the company, their founder, and their genuine application of these aims.
Natracare awards site: https://www.natracare.com/why-natracare/awards-certifications/
Natracare “Our Story”: https://www.natracare.com/our-story/
PEFC site: https://www.pefc.org/discover-pefc/what-is-pefc
PEFC certification video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5DZlyhHQqo
PWC site: https://www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/regional-sites/west/insights/natural-born-entrepreneur--changing-the-world--the-organic-way.html