Considering roughly half the population has it, we find it interesting there’s so much stigma surrounding it. You don’t need to look too far to find hundreds of naming conventions: The Red Badge of Courage; Visit from Aunty Flo; The Red Baron; Shark Week; Riding the Cotton Pony, the list goes on…but why shy away from what it actually is and how we can reduce our impact on the planet by how we manage it each month? Let’s give that bloody beautiful monthly flow, our very own cycle of life, a name. A proper name. Our PERIOD or MENSTRUATION to be quite precise. And let’s talk about waste.
For a lot of us, our period is a persistent, messy, emotionally inducing pain, but the incredible amount of waste that goes alongside it is truly astounding and even more painful to acknowledge.
Given the stigma around menstruation in general, it’s easy to see how being marketed a ‘disposable’ solution quickly took off, despite the menstrual cup and tampons both being developed in the 1930s.
The good news? There is a solution. Let us break this down for you.
To jump straight to the juicy Menstrual Cup Testimonials, CLICK HERE, otherwise enjoy the whole damn show!
SOME BLOODY SCARY STATS
Given how frequently and how many people have their period every single month, let’s take a moment to think about the landfill that this monthly cycle produces. If the average individual uses approximately 22 pads / tampons per month, this equates to 264 per year which over the average lifespan of a menstruating individual (approx. 40 years’ worth of periods) gives us the GRAND total of 10,560 hygiene products being used during one person’s lifetime. NOW, multiply that by 800 million menstruating women on the planet at any one time and we have an extortionate amount of easily avoidable waste…
In the UK alone, tampons, pads and panty-liners generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year – and the worst part? They all contain plastic.
Tampons come wrapped in plastic, encased in plastic applicators, with plastic strings dangling from one end, and many even include a thin layer of plastic in the absorbent part. Pads generally incorporate even more plastic, from the leak-proof base to the synthetics that soak up fluid to the packaging.
Most Pads are actually 90% plastic – they contain polyethylene, which is an environmentally harmful pollutant. Tampons also contain chemicals from the bleaching process, such chlorine and dioxin (the WHO has deemed dioxins “highly toxic” and categorises them as a “known human carcinogen”). These toxic ingredients leech into our environment when degrading in landfill, either as pollution into the air or via our groundwater.
Lastly, not only will these sanitary items never fully decompose but the idea of these endocrine disrupting chemicals entering our bodies through the delicate mucosal wall of the vulva, is unnerving and completely avoidable…
INTRODUCING THE MENSTRUAL CUP
First things first. What exactly is a menstrual cup? To quote Choice, it is a reusable, bell-shaped device made of medical-grade silicone, latex rubber or elastomer (TPE), which is worn internally (read about the pros and cons of each material here). They sit low in the vaginal canal and collect, rather than absorb, the menstrual flow. Once it is unfolded in place, it forms a seal that prevents blood from leaking out. When full, it is simply removed, emptied, washed and reinserted. At the beginning and end of your cycle you sterilise the cup in boiling water for five-minutes and voila, you’re done until next month!
A menstrual cup is practically just a reusable tampon, that lasts for years, holds three-times the volume and means you’ll never be caught out again.
Image from Organicup.com
To encourage you further down the menstrual cup road of love and ease and environmental benefit, we wanted to share some testimonials with you to really drive it home.
Steph: Cup converter and evangelist | Uses the LifeCup
For me, inserting the menstrual cup for the first time was not the disastrous, daunting experience I had heard about. Yes, shoving this bizarre looking silicon cup inside of me didn’t feel entirely natural in the beginning, but after several attempts, it slotted right on in and I’ve never felt so protected. The thing is, I have a heavy flow and it always seems to catch me in the most awkward and frustrating of times i.e. camping with a tremendous downpour all over my limited clothing – in the bush – with no shower and no bathroom to sort myself out – you can understand that this scenario is not ideal. As well as my bloody camping stories, every single month I would move through multiple tampons a day and would get annoyed at the frequency and the inconvenience of the process. Not only that, but I started to think about the single-use side of my period and the (what felt like) tonnes of waste I was mindlessly sending off into the abyss.
It wasn’t until the 13th year of my period (and 6,864 sanitary items later, mind you) that I learned what-was-what: I learnt about the toxins and chemicals that laced these products and I was therefore inserting into my body; I started to become cognisant of the very large (and very avoidable) amount of waste I was producing every month and after 13 years of it, I was done. So,
HERALD IN THE CUP.
The cup gets my vote because I can wear it for 12-hours straight and not feel a single thing; I can wear it camping, exercising, sleeping, sitting, standing, dancing – you get it; it’s a delight to know that it catches my period and it does not leak – even on my heaviest days; it cost me $30 and will save me hundreds more over the years; my body isn’t absorbing wicked chemicals and the best part is that I send zero unnecessary items into landfill.
My body and the earth love it – and I know they’re both cheering me on and I’m bloody thrilled about it.
Cassie: Menstrual cup hero and food fanatic | Uses the Diva cup
“I came to the period cup party late. I’d never really heard of or researched any alternative other than what I had been exposed to through my own family. I happened upon this glorious solution when trying to curb my waste. I was trying to fit all of my landfill waste for the month into a glass jar, and quickly decided that my period waste could NOT go in there!
I toddled off to my local EnviroShop in search of a reusable alternative and came across the menstrual cup. I had already birthed one child, so the box suggested I get the ‘larger’ cup. This was the first confrontation of ‘the cup’ – no-one likes the connotation of having an oversized vagina, even if the packaging maybe did have a post-vaginal-birth point!
Now, I’m not going to lie, the first attempt to use my cup was confronting, I felt like I needed Dolly Doctor holding my hand through life’s sexual and bodily mysteries all over again. You have to get up close and personal with yourself in a way you may-or-may-not be used to. Instructional videos do help (there are plenty of them), and there are different techniques for folding and inserting the cup. I beg you, please persist…. It really is worth it, and you do get into a groove quicker than you may think. 7-years on and it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
My absolute favourite thing about the cup is that I am never caught out. I was the type of tampon-user who was always running on empty and having to come up with makeshift pads until I could make it to the shops. I’m also a heavy flow kinda gal, so do have to empty my cup more often than most on my worst days. Having said that, having a period cup has given me incredible visibility of just how heavy my flow is, and has empowered me to seek help with this – another stigma that the menstrual cup helps us to tear down. Websites talk about normal flow in terms of mls, but anyone using absorbent products has no blooming idea. The cup has taken so much anxiety out of having my period, I leak way less and almost forget I have my cup in on lighter days. Travelling, camping and hiking is way easier and sterilising it is a cinch.
My children know about my cup and see me using it (because what even is privacy when you have kids) and I am grateful that their world will be one where bleeding, periods and zero-waste living is normalised.”
Verlyn: World traveller, mother of one and cup queen | Uses the Moon cup
“The Moon Cup is one of the BEST earth friendly changes I made three years ago. The transition from tampons was a breeze and I have never looked back.
I must admit, I studied the instructions like I studied for my driving test. I even watched a few clips to get it right. It was an interesting experience to say the least but I got there in the end. Fast forward three years and I simply take it out of the pouch, fold, insert, seal and done! I am ready for the day.
I used to feel quite nervous about the TSS warning on the tampon packaging. I was also never a fan of opening those public sanitary bins, so not having to manage these two things has been the biggest plus for me personally. I also love knowing that I don’t have to change my sanitary item every 2/3 hours or do a monthly restock of packaged items.
Another fantastic thing about the Moon Cup is that road trips are easy and I don’t have the constant need to change tampons every couple of hours. Travelling from country to country is also made much easier; it’s seamless travelling with a pouch instead of a few boxes of tampons.
The Moon Cup cost me $55 at the time and I have not spent another dollar since. I have also successfully converted a few friends along the way!
Lastly, there is something lovely knowing that my daughter is only familiar with the Moon Cup and not pads or tampons. She has seen it and questioned it; every mother knows privacy is a luxury with curious little ones! The Moon Cup is her normal and hopefully it will be for all her friends too.”
Shannan: Brave cup activist and mother of two | Uses the Lunette cup
“I’ve been using a menstrual cup for several years now and it has been life-changing. Fed up with the waste that conventional sanitary products generate, I was keen to try when a friend told me about them. It does look a little overwhelming when you first see a cup, but it is so easy to use. I find the time between changing is longer than that of pads and tampons and I can get through the night too, which is a bonus!
I did a three-month trip in the outback last year and the menstrual cup made having my period a breeze. With toilet stops few and far between, I was not left carrying bulky, smelly waste that would end up who knows where.
I’ve been converting my friends and family and they now love it too! My sister just started using one and can’t understand why she didn’t start using one earlier!
Once you try it there’s no turning back, it’s the best and our planet will thank you for it too!”
A FEW FINAL POINTS…
Not sure where to start?
Menstrual Cups Australia Online – This is a fabulous website that has all you need to know about Menstrual Cups, along with the ability to compare products and purchase online
How to buy the best menstrual cups for you – This Choice guide provides a good round-up of what to consider when buying a menstrual cup.
Material and disposal
Menstrual Cups Australia Online – This page clearly explains the difference between medical grade silicone, TPE plastic and Rubber Latex and the methods for disposal at the end of your menstrual cup’s life.
Also to consider – Whilst a biodegradable product might be the ultimate in terms of your sustainability goals, ensure you don’t have a sensitivity to rubber latex before purchasing. Silicone may also be easier to insert and remove due to its smooth surface. Rubber no doubt has its benefits, but like anything, it may take some getting used to, as it does have a more ‘grippy’ surface. This is not here to dissuade you from any one type, it is just to provide you with as much information as possible.
It’s great that there are so many options on the market because we’re all different!
Not sold on the Cup just yet?
If you’re still not quite ready to take the leap, there are plenty of other reusable menstruation items on the market. Reusable pads are definitely a thing, and look and feel so wonderful, so too are period undies. Here are a few places to learn more Eco Women, Britt’s List and Menstrual Cups Australia (yep, they sell period undies and reusable pads too).
Lastly, be sure to check the ingredients of your cup to ensure it is legit. It’s not worth buying a cheap cup so ensure it is medical grade and hypoallergenic – your body will thank you! And watch as many instructional videos as you need to feel comfortable.
Let us know how you go!