By: Mabel Villanueva
Have you thought about how many pads or tampons a single woman uses in her entire life? Have you tried computing the total amount you spend on these products? Most importantly, have you ever imagined the negative impacts of your monthly period to the environment?
Reusable menstrual cup manufacturer OrganiCup estimates that an individual uses approximately 11,000 disposable pads/tampons in a lifetime. These products are mostly made from cotton, but it also contains plastic components, including its packaging, which could ultimately end up harming the environment. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the world produces around 300 milliion tonnes of plastic every year, nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population – 9% of which is recycled and 12% incinerated, leaving a whopping 79% of plastics accumulating in landfills, dumps or the environment.
A research by environmental organization Women’s Voices for the Earth also revealed dioxins, furans, and pesticide residues in pads and tampons, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm and endocrine disruption. Worst is, these are just some of the long lists of chemicals of concern. In addition to this is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) which is often associated with tampon use. TSS rarely happens but it is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by bacterial infection.
Girl, it’s time to make a product switch – if not for the environment, then do it for yourself. Here are two common sustainable period products that you can use as an alternative.
Menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone which can be reused for up to two years. Not only does it reduce the risk of infection and TSS, but it can also hold up more fluid than other period products. Depending on your flow, it can be worn for up to 12 hours straight without the constant need to be checked. Guaranteed no leak so long as you find the best shape and size for you. For a quick guide, check out this quiz by Put A Cup In It.
Reusable or Washable Pads
Reusable pads are used the same way as disposable pads, and they come with different sizes and absorbency levels. The only caveat is you have to wash it after every use. It’s like the user-friendly version of the pasador or napkin your mother or grandmother probably used. It’s made from 100% natural absorbent fabrics like cotton or bamboo which makes it free from chemicals and synthetic materials that is often found in conventional pads.
To get their perspective on the matter, SEA Wave talked to a few ladies who have made the switch.
“Menstrual cup is life-changing! As an athlete, I need to train everyday even when I have my period. I’m more comfortable now because there’s no sticky feeling, and the thing that I love the most about it is that it allows me to move freely. Recently, I also started using reusable pads to achieve a zero-waste period,” shared AJ, a rhythmic gymnast from Cebu City.
“Although I had a hard time transitioning from my almost 12-year menstrual routine with disposable pads to using menstrual cups, it was actually satisfying and empowering when I got the hang of it. Rashes from using cotton pads are gone, definitely leak-proof while sleeping and exercising, and most of all, I get to use it for 8 hours straight without the concern of going back-and-forth to the bathroom all day! Plus, the number of menstrual product wastes was significantly lessened in our household, which is one of my motivators to switch completely,” said Katrina, a student from Manila City, who agreed with AJ’s points.
On the other hand, being skeptical about switching is also a normal experience among some of the people we interviewed.
“I’m still hesitant about using it, I think it’s very hassle. The normal pads kasi is very easy to use unlike the washable pads… menstrual cups naman is super scary for me because I can’t imagine putting a foreign object inside my vagina,” shared Alliana, a student from Manila City.
Switching to a zero-waste period could be complicated at first. You have to do a lot of research and test which product works best for you. It’s basically like getting used to a new lifestyle. But believe us, the convenience, comfort, and overall benefit it will bring to your health and the environment is totally worth it!
To find out more about zero-waste periods, join the Menstrual Cup Users Philippines Facebook group. Let us encourage and support one another as we try to make better choices for ourselves and the environment.