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

By Susan Powers, Clarkson College

Yearly in America, girls spend at the least 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 manner? To search out out, we requested Susan Powers, a professor of sustainable environmental methods 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 sort of reusable female hygiene product. It is a small, versatile bell-shaped cup product of rubber or silicone {that a} lady 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 at the least 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 widespread than pads or tampons.

Are menstrual cups rising in reputation?

Sure, their reputation is rising as girls, in addition to males, grow 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 reputation stems from the normal public’s concern about strong waste related to any disposable product, together with disposable pads and tampons.

You have 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 offers a broad accounting and analysis of all the supplies, vitality and processes related to the uncooked supplies in a product, together with their extraction, manufacture, use and disposal. Impacts thought of 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 methods. 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 comfortable to work carefully together with her to finish the research and publish the leads to the journal Assets, 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 product of silicone.

The evaluation additionally included packaging supplies and the processes to make and transport these supplies. So as to make a good comparability amongst merchandise, we regarded on the variety of merchandise utilized by a median lady in a single 12 months. Primarily based on printed common values, that will be 240 tampons or maxipads. A menstrual cup has a 10-year lifespan, so its use for one 12 months is the equal of one-tenth of the general manufacturing and disposal affect.

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

The life cycle affect evaluation offers quantitative scores for the impacts of every of those individually. We additionally used normalization elements for the US to allow us to provide you with a complete affect rating. Greater scores mirror 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 primarily based on all environmental metrics. Primarily based on the entire affect rating, the maxipad we thought of in our research had the very 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 almost all environmental advantages are from the diminished want to organize all the uncooked supplies and manufacture the product.

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

The life cycle evaluation additionally identifies typically 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 gasoline vitality sources. By not having to supply 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 drastically diminished the extra occasions you reuse something. Utilizing a reuseable cup for even only one month as an alternative of the common 20 pads or tampons was nonetheless an environmentally preferable method.

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

The taboo nature of speaking about menstruation is altering with younger girls, at the least in the US. Ladies at Clarkson College, for instance, labored with a cup producer to offer a really public giveaway program to distribute free cups to over 100 faculty college students. That will by no means have occurred once I was a scholar a long time in the past. Many health-related websites like WebMD and Healthline present related and dependable data on the correct use and care of menstrual cups, which ought to assist to cut back considerations 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

This text is republished from The Dialog beneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the authentic article.

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