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Feminine Hygiene

Week 12

I started my period in junior high, right in the middle of a week long summer soccer camp. I vividly remember standing in the porta potty, devastated that my time had come, and having to wait until the end of the day until I could learn to insert my first of many tampons. I can picture my induction into the club, when my mom opened a drawer to reveal the boxes upon boxes of feminine hygiene products. Now, I can't help but cringe, knowing that every bit of it ended up in a landfill.

We're all aware that half the population has to, will have to, or used to deal with monthly menstruation. On average, women get a period for 40 years. That's about 450 periods per woman and as some estimates show, a total of nearly six years of our lives are spent menstruating. In fact, the average woman uses about 9,600 tampons in her lifetime. That's a lot of period waste.

What's the problem with feminine hygiene products?

You're probably already aware that the vast majority of tampons come with a plastic wrapper and plastic applicator. However, it may surprise you to know that the tampon itself as well as the string, are often made with a mixture of cotton and synthetic (aka plastic) material. Tampons aren't the only guilty party, as pads are also lined with plastic. In total, 20 billion tampons, pads, and applicators end up in North American landfills every year.

As mentioned in previous weeks, disposable plastics are harmful for the environment because they take hundreds of years to break down. Feminine hygiene products are particularly bad since their small size makes them more likely to fall through the cracks and end up in our oceans and waterways.

Are tampon applicators recyclable?

Technically, the plastic applicator from a tampon could probably be recycled, but they aren't typically accepted by curbside pickup for sanitary reasons.

Can I compost tampons after use?

You can compost used tampons that are made from 100% natural material and are labeled as "biodegradable". However, while most brands have cotton inserts, they also have synthetic material mixed into the tampon and the string, so they shouldn't go in your compost. If you do end up composting, be warned: cotton will take a long time to break down in your home compost.

What are my options for more sustainable feminine hygiene products?

You can ditch conventional pads and tampons and switch to reusable products like menstrual cups and cloth panty liners. For a full list of options, check out my post 5 Sustainable Options for Feminine Hygiene.

5 Sustainable Options for Feminine Hygiene →