How to Avoid Menstrual Waste
Ladies, do you flush, bin or empty?
Yes, I’m talking about your tampons, applicators or pads.
It is estimated that 1.5-2 million menstrual items are swallowed by British loo’s each year. They cause blockages and can also end up in the sea where they do untold damage to the ecosystems and our underwater friends.
100 billion bits of waste are produced every year thanks to womanhood and it’s tough to know what to do with it. This figure is so startling, I can’t even picture it. The size and severity of the issue is absurd. Not only that, but pads are made of 90% plastic. Even the string on a tampon can be made of plastic, whereas the body is made from cotton or rayon. 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste has been recorded for every 100 meters of beach during clean ups. That means whether on your trip to Cambodia or the Canaries, you risk stumbling upon 4 applicators or pads per 100 meters. The likelihood of getting a tampon wedged between your toes when sunbathing is remarkably high.
So, what are our options?
The Moon Cup
The moon cup is a funny-looking cup of silicone that is designed to catch your monthly flow and reduce the plastic waste of tampons and pads. I bought one about 6 months ago and have not looked back.
Using a cup is pretty easy, you just insert, ensure the seal is created, carry on being your boss self and then empty, rinse and re-insert.
It lasts a long time, even overnight.
It comes in a cotton bag for storage and doesn’t need sterilising after your first initial boil.
I find it is discrete, fast and I produce zero waste now which feels amazing.
I also am saving money as I don’t need to buy tampons or pads.
The Less Good:
protection is not always faultless - I find it can leak from time to time, perhaps having to do with how it is inserted. which means I need extra protection.
It also comes in only two sizes (depending on whether you have given birth or not), which means you might have to change more regularly.
It’s not my fave when I’m out and about as public loos can be pretty rank and unless I have a plastic water bottle (which I do not) with a squeezy nozzle, it can be hard to rinse before reinserting. This means it can get a little messy, or you’re left worrying about overflow if you leave it until you’re back home.
I was a non-believer for a long time before I tried it. Now, I won’t go back.
Period pants are coming back into fashion! No longer will they be a playground taunt but a right of passage and pride for the wearer.
Absorbent and anti-bacterial with thicker layers designed to catch your flow.
If you swapped to using a pair of these underwear (designed for both heavy or light flow) you’d potentially be diverting 200 kgs of menstrual waste across your lifetime.
Comfortable and discrete
Be careful when sourcing your brand, to find reputable companies that use sustainable materials, don’t exploit workers and ship by boat if coming from overseas.
Be sure to treat them well so they last
I am getting mine from ModiBodi, which used bamboo, merino and microfibres in their processing. They have active wear and some nice lacy touches so you feel great too. Their swim collection boasts a vegan range, they have a 6-month warranty and with good care can last up to two years, PLUS donate via their ‘give a pair’ scheme and donate two pairs to women in shelters who can’t afford access to menstrual products.
For starters, if you are a current pad-user, beware. There are plenty of strange chemicals that are used for ‘hygiene’ purposes or reducing smells which can over time be harmful. Companies are not obliged to reveal all of the additives, but putting plastic so close to sensitive places might not be a good idea anyway.
Good news is:
You will divert the 17,000 tampons you will chuck or flush in your lifetime, by switching to reusable pads.
They come in cute colours but are discrete to tuck away
Easy to transport
Lasts for a long time with proper care
Washable and reusable (just rinse first, place in wet bag and then add to your next laundry load)
Look for ones made with sustainable fibres
Some people might not enjoy getting so personal with their pads
High up-front cost
Depending on your flow you might need a thicker pad which could take a while to get used to
If they use non-sustainable or biodegradable materials, you’ll still have to chuck them away one day
Menstrual Sea Sponge
Yes. Yes it is. Grown in the mediterranean if you’re looking for mega eco (ish) you can get a dried sponge and use it like you would a cup. Just rinse and reinsert.
The plus side of this method is it is claimed to be 100% biodegradable, hyper-absorbent so can be left for long periods (pun intended), come in different sizes for different ladies, they are sustainably harvested, last about a year and can be composted at the end.
Erm, poor sponge. Plus, unless you tie a string around it (or a piece of biodegradable dental floss) you might be left wondering what is you and what is sponge, seeking but not finding. It is also very absorbent, but will leak and drip when removed which can get messy. Plus, some research has suggested grit, dirt and other nasties can get inside the sponge (and you!) and they’re a challenge to clean. So perhaps best to leave the sea sponge in the sea.
Read a personal review here.
So, there you have it! What will you choose?