Period Plastic is the Pollutant we Can’t Ignore Anymore

On my bike the other day, my wheels rolled past a pink plastic tampon applicator on the right side of the road. I turned around not soon after, saw its evil twin on the other side of the road. 

I doubt anyone threw these out their car window. They likely fell out of a trash truck as it rolled through the neighborhood. But seeing them was the beginning of a long overdue awakening.

Ocean Plastic Number Five

As we stand up against the damage done by billions of people using single-use straws, it’s astounding to realize that period plastic is estimated to be the fifth largest source of plastic pollution in the ocean. In total, it’s estimated that seven million pounds of plastic waste is created yearly by the products used every month by billions of women around the world.

Changing this is going to require some change in what we feel is taboo. It’s time to talk about our periods, and the plastic. This post is probably the most personal blog I’ve ever written, but it’s something our planet needs us to address.

No more dark side of the moon

Women far more enlightened than I might view their “moon cycle” as a beautiful, sacred time. Not me. It’s an annoyance that comes with really uncomfortable cramps. I’ve lived in Asia where the local products weren’t what I was used to in the U.S. and Canada, and I used a menstrual cup during that time. But after a traumatic incident at a yoga class years ago, that option doesn’t work for me anymore.

I live an active life, and have been using plastic applicator tampons for years. For shame. Plastic is much more comfortable than cardboard (ick), but it’s time for me to change. Are you with me?

The truth about plant-based plastic

Some manufacturers create plant-based plastic applicators.  But a Greenpeace study warns that “‘plant-based’ plastic applicators are in fact polyethylene applicators, and persist in the environment in the same way as those made from petrochemicals.”

The paper notes that “using words like ‘plant-based plastic’ is a marketing ploy ... Green-minded shoppers see the words ‘plant-based’ and think that these applicators are biodegradable, compostable, and therefore guilt-free. However, just because a plastic is labelled ‘plant-based’, it doesn’t mean that it is an eco-friendly alternative. It just means that the main ingredient is derived from plants – for example, sugar cane.”

The “Greenpeace paper” page looked a bit dubious to me, so I did some more research. It looks like the facts are correct. Packaging industry website Packing Digest reports that “ in most cases, biodegradable bioplastics will only break down in a high-temperature industrial composting facility, not your average household compost bin. Plus, these are not recyclable.”

A friend introduced me to organic cotton tampons last year (thanks girl), and since then I’ve become a subscriber to Cora. I’m also a fan of the company’s work to empower women and girls in developing countries who don’t have the same kind of access to period products that we do.  

I sent an Instagram message to Cora to if they would disclose the percentage of applicator vs. applicator free tampons they sell, and have yet to receive a reply. That said, I am guessing that I’m not the only woman who is just waking up to how much plastic pollution I create with my period. In fact, it’s estimated that we use just under 10,000 tampons during our lifetime. That’s a lot of tampon trash on the side of the road, and in our oceans.

Cora recently launched a menstrual cup, but as noted above, that’s not going to work for me.

Time for change

I’ve talked with lots of women about their own choices lately. Even though it’s not as “easy” or “convenient” I’m switching to applicator-free on my Cora subscription. It might be a little less comfortable for me, but it feels like the right thing to do for the planet. If you’re interested, you can subscribe to Cora for 15% off with this link.

Lola is another cool menstrual product company with subscription options, and applicator-free options. They’re leading the fight to end the sales tax on period products in the USA, calling it unconstitutional to tax an essential good like tampons.  

Thinx is another company changing the game with its reusable period underwear. I haven’t tried them and am not so sure of how I’d (not) like feeling the flow, but a friend tells me her teenage sisters are huge fans.

All this change is good for our planet, and it’s good for women. Whether you love your period or hate it, it is a fact of life for billions of us around the globe. If you’re ready to purge the plastic, stand up with me to make sure that our periods don’t trash the planet while we do our best to live our fullest lives, every single day of the month.

It’s time to make change happen, one woman at a time. Ask your girlfriends if they’re still using plastic. The more we talk about what was once taboo, the more good we’ll do. Shine on, sister.