Tampons were introduced approximately seventy years ago, so it is a relatively new invention, but the environmental impact of tampons has been massive. When you read a lot about the cotton processing and how long an applicator or a pad lasts in a land fill, it does make you think. Then, when you read a historical fiction book like The Red Tent or The Other Boleyn Girl, and period management is either sitting on a pile of straw in a tent or reaching for a personal box of literal “rags,” you see why innovation was necessary. But, in these modern times, have we swung the pendulum too far in the direction of disposable products?
Back to the tampon, the word tampon actually means “plug” in French. Cotton requires huge amounts of pesticide to grow and then in production cotton is bleached with more chemicals to make it white. A plug of cotton is mixed with rayon…blah, blah, blah…other scary sounding ingredients are added and then it’s plunged into the vagina without a second thought to manage period flows.
While the farming and production of cotton is troubling, a plastic applicator is actually the worst part of the tampon as it takes “virtually forever” to biodegrade. Neither part of a tampon is supposed to be flushed down the toilet, but a lot of applicators and cotton parts end up in the flotsam of oceans. And one statistic said that an average woman uses 10,000 tampons in her lifetime.
Pads and panty liners are made from materials that are pretty much indestructible and do not break down in landfills. Plus, most brands individually wrap each tampon, pad and liner which adds to the trash in landfills.
For more reading on this topic, click here and here. We wrote about reusable period management products here and wondered if American women were ready to embrace the “ick” factor of washing out menstrual cups and leak proof underwear. After learning a little bit about the environmental impact of disposable products, does that make you more interested to invest in a menstrual cup and a set of leak proof underwear to manage a cycle?
We’ll look at a cost/benefit analysis next!