Menstruation is something which happens to all women and yet is often a difficult topic to discuss. This is a real shame as it makes solving problems and educating people about their choices really challenging. One of the major issues around this is that we never talk about what happens to all those tampons and pads when they are disposed of. Where do they go? How long do they last? I have certainly been guilty of not even asking those questions, let alone the more important ones such as ‘What damage do they cause?’ and ‘What alternatives are there?’.
Did you know menstrual pads can contain up to 90% plastic, the equivalent to four carrier bags worth, which doesn’t break down. The average woman is expected to throw away more than 10,000 of these in their lifetime. Tampons, pads and sanitary towels amount to more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. That is a huge amount, which ends up in our rivers and seas, leaching unpleasant chemicals and presenting a hazard to wildlife.
There are several alternatives to tampons and sanitary pads which are significantly more environmentally friendly due to their reusability. Namely:
Menstrual cups – these are made from medical grade silicon and comprise a cup which is inserted into the vagina to collect the blood. Most women only have to empty it a couple of times a day. The cup is easy to clean and can be reused for 10 years! It costs more than the disposable alternatives (of course) but, over its lifetime, it works out a lot cheaper (we sell mooncups for £21.30).
Reusable menstrual pads – these are cloth pads which are fixed into underwear in the same way as sanitary towels. They are made of fabric so, once they have been used, they can just be placed in the washing machine and then reused. Again, these are more expensive on a one off purchase than their disposable counterparts (we sell each pad for £10) but they are infinitely reusable. Ours are handmade by the lovely ladies at Honour Your Flow in Cumbria.
Period pants – the name says it all here. These absorbent pants soak up period blood. Their costs range from £10 to £30 and they are washed and reused.
Everyone is different in terms of what works for them. Personally, I find the mooncups an excellent, hassle free solution to tampons. There are lots of resources out there for anyone considering switching (including the Menstrual Cup Tribe on Facebook), so if you have any concerns, there is always a friendly face to ask. If you are near Crickhowell, feel free to pop in for a chat with me, Chloe (although Rob will do his best to answer your questions too ;))
Check out this great video from City to Sea and their Plastic Free Periods campaign