While some of these single-use products offer little value to consumers’ lives—other than convenience—many nonwoven-based products, particularly those in the health and hygiene markets, have been proven to enhance consumers’ lives and well being. Disposable baby diapers have lessened incidences of diaper rashes and other skin problems; adult incontinence items are giving older consumers the chance to stay active longer and disposable medical products are decreasing occurrences of hospital acquired infections and reducing the lengths of hospital stays.
As the global economy seeks to be more circular, the use of nonwovens will surely be under fire because many types of these fabrics are both based on plastics and are disposable, but as government bodies look at ways to lessen the use of plastic, they are also recognizing the importance of these products to consumers’ lives.
This has been most evident in the feminine hygiene market as requirements to make these products free of charge in places like homeless shelters, prisons and public schools become law in many states and cities. Legislators proposing these law cite the fact that many women and girls face “period poverty” when they cannot afford adequate feminine hygiene items, causing them to miss work and school. According to estimates, the average annual cost of feminine hygiene—dubbed the pink tax—ranges from $150-300, which is a significant percentage of many household budgets.
Earlier this month, New Hampshire legislators passed a law requiring that free feminine hygiene products be made available in all public schools, calling it an issue of “equality and dignity.” New Hampshire is just the latest U.S. state to pass such a ruling, proving that these products are household necessities, and it is likely to continue as the topic of menstruation becomes less taboo.