Though Catie and I are nixing the idea of actually selling diva cups/ cloth pads as part of our project, we would still like to include some information about the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products on the environment, and suggest more eco-friendly alternatives.
In the United States, an estimated 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed each year. In considering the impact that has on the environment, the issue operates at multiple levels, especially in considering not only the waste itself, but also the packaging, plastic applicators, as well as production.
In a study published by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the main environmental impact lies in processing raw materials, namely plastics used in pads, and the cotton used in tampons. In this capacity, tampons have less of an impact, as pads require more plastic, much of which doesn’t biodegrade. Tampons, on the other hand, take 6 months to do so.
Cultural attitudes towards female health are often derogatory, placing women in a position of inferiority, especially when menstruating. This is evident in the luxury tax placed on hygiene products, which Obama speculates “it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” (thanks Obama for acknowledging the inherent sexism written into our legal codes) Why should we be made to feel worse because of the environmental impact on something we have no choice over?
The good news is, we don’t! There are many options out there that create far less of a negative impact, or pretty much eliminate it altogether. These include tampons made with organic cotton and reusable pads made of cloth. The most favored among eco-minded women is the menstrual cup, which is made of silicone and pretty much infinitely reusable. With that, it is also the most cost effective.