Article by Gabriela Cruz.
This week, I came across with an organization that provides humanitarian aid to refugee camps and within their range of products I discovered a reusable pad. I had no idea this existed! Did you know that an average woman will have her period for about 40 years, and according to the book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, she will throw away up to 300 pounds of trash in products related to feminine hygiene? Let me explain a bit about the problem and the alternatives.
Pads: They are not my favorite. I am mortified by the leaking possibilities. Let’s just say, my ‘bloody accidents’ have been awful and embarrassing. They make great anecdotes now, but when it was actually happening, I just wanted to DIEE! On top of that, I discovered they are the least eco-friendly option for menstruation. There is a lot of plastic involved in the wrapping, and all the adhesive components of a pad. The Women’s Environmental Network actually consider pads are about 90% plastic that mostly ends up clogging our rivers and oceans.
Tampons: These are my favorite, they are comfortable, small, and easy to use. But, have you heard of the Toxic Shock Syndrome? The risks involved when using a tampon are low and rare, yet they can be fatal. All the chemicals needed to produce this compressed material can definitely hurt us. When it comes to the environmental effect, the biggest issue is the applicator and how you dispose a used tampon. The plastic applicator is not biodegradable, and it simply does not make up for its 5-second lifetime value. The next thing is the disposal of used tampon. You are supposed to throw them in the trash rather than flushing them (I have been doing this all wrong!). Flushing them means it will end up in oceans and rivers, and possibly in the digestive system of animals.
But enough with the scary facts. I want to introduce you with the eco-friendly options.
The vaginal cup:
This a silicone flexible bell shaped product that contains your menstruation rather than absorbing it. Because of this, technically, you won’t leak. You have to dispose the fluids in the toilet every 12 hours, wash it gently, and it’s ready to be used again. No plastic, no chemicals, and it’s biodegradable.
This option almost looks like a regular pad. The difference is, they are made of layers of cloth which can be washed and reused, and they are actually cheaper. Once it wears out, it can be easily recycled and they are great for women with sensitive skin. They usually come with a waterproof sealed bag where once you need a new clean pad, you save the used one in there until you can wash it.
I have to say, these options seem great, not only for our body but also to the environment. However, they require changing our behavior and challenge our ‘normal’ routine. I have to be honest and say one thing does worry me. The logistics part of it seems challenging: How to insert the cup? How can I make sure I don’t drop all the fluids while taking it out? Or for instance, does a reusable pad smell? As soon as I can, I will get my hands on one of these products and let you know how it goes.