We should all try to be greener, period.
The environmental benefits of using a menstrual cup.
Not gunna lie, there’s something very convenient about using up your monthly supply of pads, popping them in one of those public-loo plastic baggies (heaven forbid the poor bin sees the horror of used sanitary products) and chucking them away. BUT as my late great-grandma used to say, every silver lining has a cloud. And it turns out that the disposable period product cloud is more polluting than we first thought.
THANKFULLY, there are other more planet-friendly options available to us, namely menstrual cups. So, I’m going to talk about the environmental benefits of making the switch from disposables to the cup (and buckle up, there’s plenty to talk about).
1. You won’t be poisoning marine life with plastic
45 double decker buses worth of plastic are produced each day in the UK. Just like straws and carrier bags, that’s all got to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually the ocean. Your tampon wrappers and disposable pads can then be ingested by marine life, causing them to starve due to lack of space in their stomachs for real, nutritious food.
By using a menstrual cup, you’re saving literally truckloads of plastic waste from polluting our seas. I’ve done some calculations based on my very own period to illustrate just how much of a difference one person can make. Since buying my cup one year ago, I have saved
-60 panty liners
and ALL of their associated plastic from landing in the bin. So, when my cup’s 10 year lifespan is over, I’ll have saved on a whopping 2,280 single-use plastic products. (And hopefully made some sea turtles happy too.)
2. You’ll be doing your bit to prevent groundwater- and air pollution
Plastic waste which doesn’t end up bobbing about in the sea, does end up in landfill. This is also less than ideal.
When tampons and pads sit in landfill sites, chemicals such as dioxins - linked to the bleaching process - ALSO end up in landfill. According to the EPA, these chemicals then seep into the earth, and are related into nearby groundwater and the air.
Think back to my snazzy calculations in point 1. Plastic isn’t the only pollutant you’ll be reducing by switching to a cup. So, whilst I’m not going to pretend that there’s 0% pollution attached to reusables (they have to be made and distributed after all), it’s a hell of a lot less than with disposables.
3. When you DO throw your cup away, it will actually decompose
Plastic - which FYI makes up 90% of a disposable pad - takes around 500 years to degrade. Even then, it doesn’t disappear into the ether, but still remains on the planet in the form of harmful microplastics. According to the IUCN, carcinogenic invisible plastics have been found in tap water, beer and salt. Not so tasty.
Cups, on the other hand, are made of silicone, which CAN degrade. This is made from Silica, a type of sand. So after its 10 year lifespan, your cup will whittle down back to its original state and ~become one~ with the earth once again.
4. Ever seen a discarded menstrual cup on the beach??
I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely seen a few tampon applicators wallowing sadly on the shoreline. So it’s no surprise that a UK beach clean in 2010 found an average of 23 sanitary pads and 9 tampon applicators per KM of British coastline.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy going for a splash on a beach dotted with bits of period plastic. Neither does the poor old local wildlife.
Considering we’re probably all going to be having our holibobs at home in the UK this summer, why don’t we do ourselves a favour and stop using plastic-ridden products will wash up on our beaches?
5. Cotton is kind of problematic
Ingredient numero uno in a tampon is cotton, the production of which is incredibly exhausting on farmland. Producing lots of cotton degrades soil quality, meaning farmers have to expand onto new land, which often leads to the destruction of important habitats. The WWF says that this is becoming a big problem.
Furthermore, pesticides and fertilisers used in growing cotton reduce biodiversity in fields and their surrounding waterbodies AND impact negatively on the farm-workers and nearby towns/villages.
Cotton is also an incredibly water-intensive crop. If you’ve ever bought jeans second-hand to help fight against water usage, firstly good for you! Secondly, think about using a cup.
Using a cup = less cotton-based tampons and pads = kinder to the planet.
So, there you have just some of the environmental benefits of using a menstrual cup (your wallet will thank you too). If you do want to make the switch and do your bit in the war on plastic, please consider buying through Ditch the Rag. 100% of our profits are used to provide period education and reusable products to disadvantaged menstruators across the UK.
Author; Maria Bennett
Ditch The Rag Donation Manager