No Waste. Period.

I have a new obsession. Something that has changed my experience of my period COMPLETELY. Ladies, get yourself a menstrual cup. 

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First of all, let’s get any disgust about periods out of the way. Get over it. It is essential to talk about periods especially so that we can discuss how the products we use during our periods are affecting our bodies and our planet.

Towards the end of last year, I was becoming increasingly aware of the amount of money I was spending each month on tampons. More importantly, after talking to Rufus (king of Green18) about what each of us can do to help the environment, I was horrified to think about how much waste we use during our periods. This is especially true if you’re using applicator tampons, which I was. Because periods are such a big part of our lives, we end up going for the simplest option even if the products we use are incredibly harmful on our environment, and sanitary product companies are not being held accountable for their role in the plastic problem. These companies' advertising has also fed into the idea that periods should be something that should be hidden away and not talked about. By doing this, we are not allowing ourselves to discuss and explore more environmentally friendly products. 

Here are some frankly horrifying facts about your period and the environment:

  • Each of us will use around 11,000 disposable sanitary products in our lifetime
  • It can take hundreds of years for these products to biodegrade
  • During the International Coastal Cleanup in 2013, volunteers collected 27,938 used tampons and applicators from beaches around the world in a single day
  • The average sanitary pad has as much plastic as four carrier bags
  • In the UK every day, 1.4 million pads and 2.5 million tampons get flushed straight down the loo (shame on you)

By buying yourself a cup, you can do your bit to help the increasingly devastating effect that humans are having on our planet. 

I know a lot of women will be nervous about using a menstrual cup and I completely get that. It takes time to get used to it. I’ve just used mine for the third time and I think I’ve finally perfected it. I admit I did use panty liners during the first two periods with the cup because I was paranoid it would leak and that did happen a couple of times. But once you’ve got the hang of inserting it properly, you will never have to feel like you’re wearing an adult nappy with a pad again. 

Don’t get me wrong, my cup and I have had a few low moments… Squatting on the cubicle floor of a public bathroom with my hand all up in there attempting to get it out without a bloody deluge onto the floor/myself was not my finest hour. But thankfully, once you get used to it, they are super easy to use. The cup holds up to three times the amount that a tampon does so I rarely have to empty when I’m out. There are plenty of tutorials and tips online to help you use the cup most effectively. Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years, saving you money and saving the planet a whole lot of waste.

A menstrual cup is kinder to your body than tampons. They’re chemical-free - great if you have sensitive skin - and they save you from shoving a bit of dry cotton up there on a light period day (we’ve all been there…).

I also believe menstrual cups will be hugely beneficial in the fight against period poverty, which is a huge issue for so many women around the world. Many women will be going without sanitary products during their period in order to afford food for their families. Scotland is already making headlines with their attempts to overcome period poverty, with a pilot project in Aberdeen making £12,000 worth of products available to women who need them through Community Food Initiatives North East. This means when women come to the food bank, they can also pick up sanitary products. Equalities Secretary Angela Constance commented that she is particularly happy with how this pilot has encouraged an interest in more sustainable sanitary products. I hope that menstrual cups will be a big part of initiatives such as this in the future.

So I implore any woman reading this, buy yourself a menstrual cup – I would recommend the Mooncup. Save money, be kinder to your body and, most importantly, do your bit to help save our planet. Further to this, talk about periods – discuss with your friends what sanitary products they’re using and tips on how to be more economical and environmentally friendly during that time of the month. And make the occasional man uncomfortable by talking to them about this – the discussion should not be limited to women. It’s an environmental and equality issue that affects us all.

Joanna Burns1 Comment