Put A Cup In It

Tampon Trash Talk: How Much Waste Does Your Period Really Make?

Have you ever considered how much trash and waste a single period using tampons creates? How about a whole year? When we talk about periods, it’s not just a personal health matter but also an environmental one. Traditional options for managing periods, like tampons and pads, really add up when it comes to waste (and cost) and let’s be real — running to the store when you remember that you’re out is anything but convenient.

Image showing three bins. One containing 22 tampon applicators, one showing 22 tampons, and one showing 22 tampon wrappers - to illustrate the amount of waste generated by a single menstrual cycle.

Understanding the Impact of Tampon Waste

Did you know that more than 14 billion tampons and their applicators are disposed of globally each year? That’s a lot of garbage making its way into landfills and waterways. The manufacturing of them also has a high environmental cost.

Tampons are typically made from rayon or cotton, and those with applicators are typically made from plastic (though there are cardboard applicators as well.) Cotton may be biodegradable, but it’s also a thirsty crop, guzzling water and using far more than it’s fair share of pesticides. Rayon, on the other hand, is a synthetic fiber and is not so great on the biodegradability front. And, of course, the plastic components in tampons and their packaging are not biodegradable, taking hundreds of years to decompose, if at all.


Enter the Hero: The Menstrual Cup

Now, let’s talk about the game changer: menstrual cups. These little wonders are still gaining popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional menstrual products. Made from medical-grade silicone, latex rubber, or TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), menstrual cups are designed for long-term use, with many brands stating that they can be used for up to 10 years with proper care.

The sustainability of menstrual cups is primarily due to their reusability, significantly reducing the amount of garbage generated over your lifetime. A single menstrual cup can say “see ya later” to over 2,000 tampons or pads. That’s a lot of saved space in our landfills and a big win for Mother Earth.

Not Just Green. Menstrual Cups Are Kind to Your Body and Wallet

Menstrual cups aren’t just Mother Earth approved; they’re kinder to your body and your bank account. Unlike tampons, cups don’t absorb your body’s natural moisture, reducing dryness and irritation. They also have a lower risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a rare but serious condition associated with tampon use.

And let’s talk cash. Yes, a menstrual cup might cost more upfront than a pack of tampons, but it’s an investment that pays off in nearly no-time. Even if you buy the most budget-friendly period care on the market, switching to a menstrual cup will pay for itself in under a year. With the potential to be used for up to 10 years, the financial savings is clear. Think of it like buying a coffee machine instead of grabbing a latte at the café every day.

Making the Switch to a Menstrual Cup

Thinking about switching? It’s not as scary as it sounds, and it’s totally normal to have questions and concerns. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Size Matters: Like everything we wear, menstrual cups come in different sizes. To have the best experience, it’s important to find the one that fits you — which is why The Cup Quiz was developed. 

My goal was to help take the stress out of choosing a cup and align people with just a few options that are most likely to ensure a positive first experience with a menstrual cup. I’ve been there, so I know just how intimidating it can be to make the switch. Having a bad first experience can make coming back to give it another shot an instant “no”, and knowing how much better my periods are since using a cup meant that experience was the top priority.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Inserting and removing a menstrual cup can take some practice. It might take a few tries to get it right but don’t sweat it. Nobody’s a pro on the first go. What worked for me was practicing before my period started. For me, it was a lot less stressful to try it out when period blood wasn’t involved.
  • Keep It Clean: Keeping your menstrual cup clean is key. Wash it with mild, unscented soap and water between uses. You can also sterilize it between cycles if you choose.
  • Listen to Your Body: Every body is different. If you have questions or need a bit of guidance, our Facebook Community is a great place for that, and of course, definitely discuss medically related questions or concerns with a trusted healthcare provider.

Embracing Change for a Greener Future

It’s true: menstrual cups aren’t perfect. Manufacturing and the care that goes along with them (washing and all of that) does leave an environmental footprint, but the data shows that it pales in comparison to the overall process of growing/manufacturing and processing materials used for disposable period care products. Pairing that with the long lifespan of menstrual cups and the reduction in waste easily makes them a more sustainable option, hands down.

Making the change to sustainable menstrual products like menstrual cups or reusable pads is a positive step for both your personal health and the environment. While it can be a bit intimidating at first, the benefits are worth giving it a try. Plus, you can feel good knowing that every small step counts in making a difference. It’s true that switching to a menstrual cup is a personal choice, but it’s also true that each choice we make can contribute to a collective effort toward a more sustainable and environmentally responsible world.

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