Thinx created reusable period underwear with the mission to make menstruation products more accessible, sustainable, and comfortable. Thinx can act as replacements to pads and tampons that are traditional period products, due to their absorbent material. The people behind Thinx make efforts to break the taboo behind periods, and include sustainability as one of their mission goals. Thinx has created the program, GiveRise!, to give support to marginalized communities, improve education about reproductive health, and increase accessibility to period products to students unable to afford them. To achieve their goals in GiveRise!, Thinx has partnered with other programs and grassroots organizations like EveryBody, PERIOD, Girls Inc., and Safe Horizon. Thinx’s period underwear are versatile, ranging in different styles and sizes. They range from $24 to $42, and although more expensive than an average pack of period products, Thinx are reusable and in the long run, are more affordable than regular, single-use period pads and tampons. Thinx also has an extensive FAQ page and reviews page and a sustainability and ethics page that demonstrates their transparency and care for the consumer.
Overall, Thinx and their manufacturing factory’s focus on sustainability mantras and strong overall sustainability statement is admirable, but lacks in transparency on the materials used in their underwear. Although Thinx is transparent regarding the treatment of their employees and their overall mission of women empowerment, I feel that their eco-friendly and sustainable statement is not completely accurate due to the use of nylon and elastane in their underwear. However, the transfer to reusable period underwear from single-use products does reduce the overall waste that comes from period products. For a Thinx product that minimizes impact on the environment through production, sourcing of materials, and carbon footprint created through shipping, I recommend underwear from the organic cotton series rather than their traditional nylon underwear.
Thinx period underwear consist of an absorbent material that holds up to the amount five tampons can absorb. The body is made of 89% nylon and 11% elastane while the gusset is 100% polyester. Despite Thinx being reusable, the non-compostable nylon and elastane the body is made up of is unsustainable and when disposed of, will persist and act as pollutants in the ecosystem. Although the disposal of various fabrics like nylon and elastane can be harmful to the environment, the factory in Sri Lanka has created a Products Made Better program that recycles their old fabrics into bricks for constructing buildings; the factory has created over 70,000 bricks that have been used to construct new buildings. However, the production and carbon footprint of nylon and elastane during production all have a significantly negative impact on the environment and release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A concerning point is how a majority of Thinx’s underwear consist of nylon. Nylon and polyester often release microplastics that harm wildlife and are derived from crude oil, a nonrenewable source. As nylon and polyester are derived from crude oil and coal, products utilizing these materials are directly supporting these polluting industries and the emissions they release. However, Thinx does have an organic, all-cotton version of their period underwear that gives it the 1.0 planet rating. Cotton, although slightly more sustainable than nylon, can still has a negative impact on the environment, as the cultivation of cotton requires a large amount of farmland, water, and fertilizer. Although the cotton underwear is a better option than their traditional underwear, Thinx also does not specify where they source their cotton from, making it concerning to me as a potential consumer.
The period underwear are made in a production line. Thinx partnered with MAS, a manufacturing partner based in Sri Lanka to create the period underwear. Thinx period underwear are made with multiple layers to improve absorbency, and the fabrics are sewn together with sewing machines. The final product is hand-packaged by women in the factory, and a downfall is that each underwear is individually packaged in plastic. Thinx describes what their materials are made from, but doesn’t specify where they source it from, lacking a sense of transparency in the materials and sourcing aspect.
Thinx works with a manufacturing partner, known as MAS, that has a factory based in Sri Lanka. 70% of MAS employees in the factory in Sri Lanka are female and trained to focus on sustainability. MAS partners with the Women Go Beyond program to further empower the women in their workspace with diverse skills that they can use in their future careers and personal lives. To progress in sustainability, the factory itself has a zero waste goal set for 2025 and has created green manufacturing plants with almost zero impact on the environment. Something to consider, however, is the carbon footprint the factory has due to the transportation and shipping of Thinx products that may release greenhouse gases.