Is Always flex foam biodegradable?

This article will assess the biodegradability of Always flex foam. Other aspects covered would include: 

  • Is Always flex foam biodegradable?
  • Is Always flex foam recyclable?
  • Is the packaging biodegradable?
  • Is Always flex foam reusable?
  • What are the health risks associated?
  • What are the environmental impacts?
  • Are there any green alternatives?
  • What is Always flex foam made of?
  • FAQs

Is Always flex foam biodegradable?

The majority of the materials used in Always flex foam are either synthetic polymers or plastic with a few exceptions which makes the product as a whole, non-biodegradable. 

Although it should be noted that super absorbent polymers (SAP) used in sanitary products such as always flex foams are biodegradable but they require certain conditions for degradation.

As regards the recycling aspect, it is theoretically possible but in the case of sanitary products like always flex foam, recycling becomes not only challenging as separating the waste fluid from polymers completely would be a daunting task itself but the risks involved are too great.

Therefore, it can be summed up that Always flex foam has a high environmental impact because Always flex foam is non-biodegradable, non-recyclable and non-reusable which makes them products with a high impact factor on the environment.

Is Always flex foam biodegradable?

Biodegradability of a product means that it is completely made from or most of its ingredients are made from natural substances that can be degraded in nature in less than a year, unlike synthetic non-biodegradable products which can remain on the planet for thousands of years and harm the environment.

In the case of always flex foam, almost all the ingredients used are either synthetic polymers or plastic with a few exceptions which makes the product as a whole, non-biodegradable. 

Although it should be noted that super absorbent polymers (SAP) used in sanitary products such as always flex foams are biodegradable but they require certain conditions for degradation.

The fact that flex foam can only be sent to landfills makes it highly improbable that it will degrade in nature. 

Based on it, many assumptions can be made and inferred that place will always flex much analogised to an unsustainable product because it will further the pressure on landfills and exacerbate the problems for waste management systems and endeavours. 

Is Always flex foam recyclable?

The question of recyclability of always flex foam is a complex one and needs to be understood carefully. Materials such as SAP and polyethene are recyclable although recycling SAP is relatively difficult to recycle the problem lies somewhere.

Recycling normal products that would not involve liquids such as blood or other similar fluids is easier and safer as the risk of transmission of any disease is almost zero.

However, In the case of sanitary products like always flex foam, recycling becomes not only challenging as separating the waste fluid from polymers completely would be a daunting task itself but the risks involved are too great.

So the only logical thing remains to do is to put these in a landfill where their environmental impact is reduced but considering that these products are used in huge quantities each day, it puts the environment at high risk considering these products are non-biodegradable, non-recyclable and not reusable as well. 

However, with the future perspective in mind, specialised recycling centres can be dedicated to waste like always flex foam so that the recycling capacity may be tapped and recycling benefits, discussed, could be achieved. 

As per studies, the following can be the benefits of recycling: 

  • Better waste management
  • Better resource management 
  • Less strain on the raw materials 
  • Better energy management 
  • Reduced waste
  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Decreased LCA of a product 

Is the packaging biodegradable or recyclable?

A normal person would expect the manufacturers to at least show some concern for the environment by at least packaging the product in biodegradable or recyclable packaging and the good news is that flex foams are packaged in polyethene sheets which can be completely and easily recycled.

However, special care must be taken and they must be dumped only in recycling trash cans so they can be sent to a recycling facility in order to be used again.

Here also, we observe points where the producers can improve. This includes the use of biodegradable and compostable material for packaging so that the end products may be put to the greater good. Also, the producers must also heed reusable packaging since reusing is always better than recycling as there is not too little expense of energy here. 

Is Always flex foam reusable?

No, Always flex foams are not reusable. Feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads are generally meant for single use only and have to be thrown away after use. Only reusable menstrual cups made of medical-grade silicone and latex are reusable as they are washable.

In the case of always flex foam, they are single use the reason being that they contain absorbent polymers as discussed before from which the liquid cannot be separated by normal methods so they cannot be washed and they have a certain capacity after which they become useless.

What are the health risks involved with using Always flex foam?

There are several health risks involved due to the fact that there are certain chemicals which are known to be carcinogens but the cases are very rare according to research conducted in 2015.

The fact that these sanitary pads such as always flex foam are actually necessary for the sanitisation of the female body helps protects from many diseases so the benefits outweigh the risks. 

However, it does not in any way mean that future trends can be oblivious or forgetful of the health hazards that may arise. 

What is the environmental impact of always flex foam? (3 reasons why Always flex foam is unsustainable) 

As it has been discussed earlier that sanitary pads such as always flex foam are non-biodegradable, non-recyclable and non-reusable which makes them products with a high impact factor on the environment.

It is considered that a woman of reproductive age generally uses around 32 single-use pads or tampons per period which amount to 416 per year so an average woman generates around 180kg of sanitary pad waste during her lifetime.

When these figures are represented on a larger scale it comes up as a huge problem of waste which cannot be naturally degraded or recycled. The world has to come together to search for alternatives. 

Are there any green alternatives available? 

Yes, as it happens there are many green alternatives now available but the same problem which is with other eco-friendly products also is the same with eco-friendly sanitary pads that are expensive and considering that they are an everyday item for women, a large majority of them still buy cheap synthetic sanitary pads.

The real problem to solve here is to create a sanitary product for women which has no to little environmental impact. It should be biodegradable to start with but has to be cheap for everyone to buy.

What is always flex foam made of?

Always flex foam has many layers of different materials which combine to make the final product. It includes polymers, oils, salts, and moisturising agents all having different functions. 

Always flex foam has what is common in all sanitary pads, an absorbent core which locks all the liquid away from the body.

Absorbent cores have been made in the past with natural materials but due to difficulty of acquiring raw materials and limited production led to the use of synthetic materials. Still today, most foams use cotton but multiple brands such as Always add super absorbent polymer (SAP) into their core of sanitary pads.

Always flex foam’s core is made of polyacrylate foam. Polyacrylate foam is made of polyacrylate polymers which have multiple uses in different industries. They are sanitary pads due to their high liquid absorption capacity and elasticity.

Other ingredients include salts to support the liquid movement towards the core and lotions to protect the skin. A protective layer of polyethene is present between the core and upper layer to avoid contact with waste with the skin.

Conclusion

It is concluded that almost all the ingredients used in Always flex foam are either synthetic polymers or plastic with a few exceptions which makes the product as a whole, non-biodegradable. 

Although it should be noted that super absorbent polymers (SAP) used in sanitary products such as always flex foams are biodegradable but they require certain conditions for degradation.

As regards the recycling aspect, it is theoretically possible but in the case of sanitary products like always flex foam, recycling becomes not only challenging as separating the waste fluid from polymers completely would be a daunting task itself but the risks involved are too great.

Therefore, it can be summed up that Always flex foam has a high environmental impact because Always flex foam is non-biodegradable, non-recyclable and non-reusable which makes them products with a high impact factor on the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions: Is Always flex foam biodegradable?

How frequently sanitary pads are used by women?

It is considered that a woman of reproductive age generally uses around 32 single-use pads or tampons per period which amount to 416 per year so an average woman generates around 180kg of sanitary pad waste during her lifetime.

Is it advisable to reuse sanitary pads?

No, it is not advisable to reuse sanitary pads as there is a high risk of catching an infection which can lead to exacerbated health conditions and even mortality. However, reusable sanitary pads can be opted for this purpose. 

References

  • Velasco Perez, M., Sotelo Navarro, P. X., Vazquez Morillas, A., Espinosa Valdemar, R. M., & Hermoso Lopez Araiza, J. P. (2021). Waste management and environmental impact of absorbent hygiene products: A review. Waste Management & Research, 39(6), 767-783.
  • Cha, Y. U., & Park, M. J. (2019). Consumer preference and market segmentation strategy in the fast-moving consumer goods industry: The case of women’s disposable sanitary pads. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 19, 130-140.
  • Hait, A., & Powers, S. E. (2019). The value of reusable feminine hygiene products evaluated by comparative environmental life cycle assessment. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 150, 104422.
  • Tudu, P. N. (2020). Saathi Sanitary Pads: Eco‐friendly pads which will make you go bananas! International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 25(1), e1667.
  • What is always flex foam made of? Retrieved from https://www.always.com/en-us/about-us/what-are-always-flexfoam-pads-made-of
  • Woeller, K. E., & Hochwalt, A. E. (2015). Safety assessment of sanitary pads with a polymeric foam absorbent core. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 73(1), 419-424.
  • Cabrea, A., & García, R. The Environmental & Economic Cost of Single-Use Menstrual Products, Baby Nappies & Wet Wipes. Investigating the Impact of These Single-Use Items Across EUROPE, 1-65.
  • Van Eijk, A. M., Jayasinghe, N., Zulaika, G., Mason, L., Sivakami, M., Unger, H. W., & Phillips-Howard, P. A. (2021). Exploring menstrual products: A systematic review and meta-analysis of reusable menstrual pads for public health internationally. PloS one, 16(9), e0257610.
  • Mehta, S., Grover, A., Mittal, N., Nanda, P., Khatuja, R., & Naseem, A. (2022). Reusable sanitary napkins—time to revisit. Journal of Public Health, 44(2), 356-362.

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