Menstrual Cups Are a Cheaper, Extra Sustainable Method for Ladies to Cope With Durations Than Tampons or Pads

By Susan Powers, Clarkson College

Yearly in America, girls spend no less than US$2.8 billion on sanitary pads and tampons that may take a whole lot of years to decompose. Is there a extra economical and environmentally pleasant method? To search out out, we requested Susan Powers, a professor of sustainable environmental techniques at Clarkson College about her work evaluating the environmental affect of tampons, sanitary pads and menstrual cups.

What’s a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a kind of reusable female hygiene product. It is a small, versatile bell-shaped cup fabricated from rubber or silicone {that a} girl inserts into her vagina to catch and gather menstrual fluid. It may be used for as much as 12 hours, after which it’s eliminated to get rid of the fluid and cleaned. The cup is rinsed with scorching water and cleaning soap between every insertion and sterilized in boiling water no less than as soon as per interval. A cup can final as much as 10 years.

Though menstrual cups have been round for many years, they traditionally have been much less in style than pads or tampons.

Are menstrual cups rising in recognition?

Sure, their recognition is rising as girls, in addition to males, turn out to be extra snug coping with and discussing menstruation. They’ve been a subject in information media starting from Teen Vogue to NPR. One other a part of their rising recognition stems from the normal public’s concern about stable waste related to any disposable product, together with disposable pads and tampons.

You’ve got been researching the life cycle of various female hygiene merchandise. What’s a life cycle evaluation and what have your research proven?

A life cycle evaluation supplies a broad accounting and analysis of the entire supplies, vitality and processes related to the uncooked supplies in a product, together with their extraction, manufacture, use and disposal. Impacts thought-about embrace local weather change, pure useful resource depletion, human toxicity and ecotoxicity, amongst others.

I’ve labored for a number of years on a vary of those assessments for shopper merchandise and vitality and agricultural techniques. When Clarkson Honors Program scholar Amy Hait approached me about her concept of finishing a life cycle evaluation on female hygiene merchandise, I used to be intrigued and blissful to work carefully along with her to finish the research and publish the leads to the journal Sources, Conservation & Recycling.

We in contrast three merchandise: a rayon-based tampon with a plastic applicator, a maxipad with a cellulose and polyethylene absorbent core and a menstrual cup fabricated from silicone.

The evaluation additionally included packaging supplies and the processes to make and transport these supplies. In an effort to make a good comparability amongst merchandise, we appeared on the variety of merchandise utilized by a median girl in a single yr. Based mostly on revealed common values, that may be 240 tampons or maxipads. A menstrual cup has a 10-year lifespan, so its use for one yr is the equal of one-tenth of the general manufacturing and disposal affect.

Our evaluation included eight totally different classes to judge the general environmental affect. These embrace measuring the impacts on the setting and human well being.

The life cycle affect evaluation supplies quantitative scores for the impacts of every of those individually. We additionally used normalization components for america to allow us to give you a complete affect rating. Increased scores replicate larger total impacts.

Is utilizing a menstrual cup extra environmentally sustainable?

The outcomes of the life cycle evaluation clearly confirmed that the reusable menstrual cup was by far the perfect based mostly on all environmental metrics. Based mostly on the full affect rating, the maxipad we thought-about in our research had the best rating, indicating increased impacts. The tampon had a 40% decrease rating and the menstrual cup 99.6% decrease. The important thing issue for the excessive rating for the maxipad was its larger weight and the manufacture of the uncooked supplies to make it.

Most individuals select a reusable product as a result of they consider it will not add waste to landfills. However our research exhibits that the majority environmental advantages are from the diminished want to arrange the entire uncooked supplies and manufacture the product.

Taking the tampon for instance, the extraction and preparation of the uncooked supplies used to make it contributed over 80% of the full affect. Disposal, which individuals typically pay extra consideration to, actually contributes considerably solely to water air pollution, which is a really minor element of the general affect.

The life cycle evaluation additionally identifies generally shocking sources of environmental and well being impacts, together with dioxins from bleaching wooden pulp for pads, zinc from rayon manufacturing for tampons and chromium emissions from fossil gas vitality sources. By not having to provide extra single-use merchandise, we are able to keep away from emitting many of those pollution.

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As with all different shopper items, the impacts related to the manufacture and disposal of merchandise are enormously diminished the extra occasions you reuse something. Utilizing a reuseable cup for even only one month as a substitute of the common 20 pads or tampons was nonetheless an environmentally preferable strategy.

What is finished to encourage using a extra sustainable female hygiene product?

The taboo nature of speaking about menstruation is altering with younger girls, no less than in america. Ladies at Clarkson College, for instance, labored with a cup producer to supply a really public giveaway program to distribute free cups to over 100 school college students. That will by no means have occurred after I was a scholar many years in the past. Many health-related websites like WebMD and Healthline present related and dependable info on the right use and care of menstrual cups, which ought to assist to scale back issues over their use and encourage extra girls to strive them.The Conversation

Susan Powers, Spence Professor of Sustainable Environmental Techniques and the Director of the Institute for a Sustainable Atmosphere, Clarkson College

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