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

By Susan Powers, Clarkson University

Yearly in America, girls spend a minimum of US$2.8 billion on sanitary pads and tampons that may take hundreds of years to decompose. Is there a extra economical and environmentally pleasant approach? To seek out out, we requested Susan Powers, a professor of sustainable environmental methods at Clarkson College about her work evaluating the environmental impression 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 manufactured from 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 eliminate the fluid and cleaned. The cup is rinsed with scorching water and cleaning soap between every insertion and sterilized in boiling water a minimum of as soon as per interval. A cup can final up to 10 years.

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

Are menstrual cups rising in reputation?

Yes, their reputation is rising as girls, in addition to males, develop into extra comfy 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 general public’s concern about solid waste related to any disposable product, together with disposable pads and tampons.

You might have 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 assessment gives a broad accounting and analysis of the entire supplies, power 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 range of these assessments for shopper merchandise and power and agricultural methods. When Clarkson Honors Program pupil Amy Hait approached me about her concept of finishing a life cycle evaluation on female hygiene merchandise, I used to be intrigued and completely satisfied to work intently along with her to finish the research and publish the results in the journal Resources, 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 made of silicone.

The evaluation additionally included packaging supplies and the processes to make and transport these supplies. With a view to make a good comparability amongst merchandise, we seemed on the variety of merchandise utilized by a median lady in a single yr. Primarily based on published average 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 impression.

Our evaluation included eight completely different classes to guage the general environmental impression. These embrace measuring the impacts on the setting and human well being.

The life cycle impression evaluation gives quantitative scores for the impacts of every of those individually. We additionally used normalization components for the USA to allow us to provide you with a complete impression rating. Increased scores replicate better 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 very best based mostly on all environmental metrics. Primarily based on the whole impression rating, the maxipad we thought-about in our research had the best rating, indicating greater 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 better 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 lowered 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 whole impression. Disposal, which individuals typically pay extra consideration to, actually contributes considerably solely to water air pollution, which is a really minor part of the general impression.

The life cycle evaluation additionally identifies typically stunning 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 power sources. By not having to supply extra single-use merchandise, we will 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 lowered the extra instances you reuse something. Utilizing a reuseable cup for even only one month as an alternative of the typical 20 pads or tampons was nonetheless an environmentally preferable strategy.

What is completed to encourage the usage of a extra sustainable female hygiene product?

The taboo nature of speaking about menstruation is altering with younger girls, a minimum of in the USA. Women at Clarkson University, for example, labored with a cup producer to offer a really public giveaway program to distribute free cups to over 100 faculty college students. That might by no means have occurred after I was a pupil a long time in the past. Many health-related internet sites like WebMD and Healthline present related and dependable info on the correct use and care of menstrual cups, which ought to assist to scale back considerations over their use and encourage extra girls to attempt them.The Conversation

Susan Powers, Spence Professor of Sustainable Environmental Methods and the Director of the Institute for a Sustainable Setting, Clarkson University

This text is republished from The Conversation underneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the original article.

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