You either have a friend or are that friend who has been raving about the menstrual cup and how it’s a life-changing purchase. More and more of us are ditching tampons and pads in favour of these new aged reusable blood catchers but they aren’t for everyone, as we find out…
Did you know the average woman uses roughly 11,000 tampons in her lifetime? In the UK alone, 1.5 billion items of sanitary products are flushed every year – and one tampon takes longer to degrade in landfill than the average woman’s lifespan. A few years ago disposing of tampons was the norm but things have changed as we have become more aware of the environmental impact of menstrual products.
Menstrual cups – or mooncups – are undoubtedly better for the planet as you can reuse it for years and they are a more economical option. But does it mean we should all be using a mooncup? And should we be made to feel guilty and that we’re killing the planet if we aren’t?
The case for the mooncup
Meet two mooncup devotees who are living happy tampon-free lives…
Jo, travel writer, Surrey
“My relationship with mooncups is a hate-love one. I switched a year ago for environmental reasons and I’d never liked tampons anyway: they are, let’s face it, grim. I bought a small-size cup, biodegradable pantyliners, and looked forward to a happier, waste-free period. How naive. Inserting the cup was a lesson in self-inflicted pain. No fold made it small enough and my finger couldn’t fit alongside to check it was placed correctly. It never was; I always bled through and I dreaded trying again. I persevered for three periods, tears in my eyes every time I forced it inside, because its obvious cleaner, greener benefits had ruined tampons for me too.
“Research changed everything. I’d assumed there were two mooncup types but there are loads in different sizes, shapes and softness – turns out there is such a thing as too big and too hard. Putacupinit.com’s brilliant quiz helped find the right brand for me: Si-Bell. The smooth rubber is bliss and I find the quick rinse far cleaner than bloody tampon disposal. Mooncups aren’t perfect but even with my experience I’d heartily recommend them – just do your research first.”
Chloe, stylist, north London
“I saw it in my local organic grocery and thought I would give it a go and never have looked back. I particularly enjoy ignoring all the bossy signs about not flushing pads and tampons down the toilet. There is usually one day when I have to be careful that my cup doesn’t flow over and have to empty it a few times a day – but for the rest of the time I really don’t worry about my period. I just change it in the morning and evening at home. I have no idea why the rest of the world doesn’t do it.
“Menstruating happens every month and it’s important to know what’s going on – what your flow is like etc. May seem gross but you get over that and it then seems odd you would have ever fiddled around with applications and wrappers which are all just encumbering paraphernalia and ultimately pollutants.”
The case for tampons
Two women on why they won’t be giving up tampons anytime soon…
Amy, journalist and owner of a meal prep service, north London
“I’ve been using tampons as my primary feminine hygiene product from the age of about 17. They’re discreet, odourless, and mess free (when used correctly!). Popping to the toilet at work with a tampon hidden up your sleeve or shoved in your back pocket is far easier than disguising chunky sanitary pads. All my bags have an inconspicuous tampon zipped away so there is always one on hand should I be caught off guard. Tampons do not require washing or disinfecting (as with mooncups) and there is no chance of any spillages or unwanted mess on removal.
“Granted, tampons are not amazing for the environment, but we can make slight improvements to the damage caused by disposing of them mindfully. Don’t flush them down the toilet, instead, dispose of them in biodegradable bags in the bin. Another way to lessen environmental impact is to opt for cardboard applicators rather than plastic – they’re cheaper too! If I knew I was staying at home or not going anywhere that required using public toilets, I might consider using mooncups, but for now (as a busy, young professional) tampons are my mess and stress free period must have.”
Stacey, spin instructor, central London
“I remember even before getting my first period, I would see classmates with Tampax in their purse and wonder when it would be my turn to carry them. To me, and to my friends, they were a sign of being a woman, proof positive that we were growing up. The alternative to tampons then were heavy, horrid pads that felt like pillows and inevitably shifted in a bad way whenever we sat down, and no teen wants to be pointed out as having what looks like a full diaper between their legs!
“So I’ve used tampons since the beginning, always careful to replace them frequently so as not to get toxic shock syndrome. I always have some in my luggage just in case. My friends in other countries have to pay ridiculous prices for them (France is egregious!), but we all agree that they’re the easiest and lowest-fuss way to manage. To be honest, none of the other alternatives are in any way appealing to me, and I’m guessing I’ll continue using them until I go into menopause.”
Get your weekly DOSE fix here: SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER