Better late than never

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To the males amongst our subscribers I would say please forward this to your girlfriends. Today I would like to talk about a plastic-free alternative to pads and tampons: the menstrual cup. I have postponed writing this for months years because it’s in intimate topic. It doesn’t make for any fancy pictures either.

Not so eager

So let’s start. It must have been several years since I first learned about menstrual cups. As Wikipedia puts it, these are reusable small cups “worn inside the vagina during menstruation to catch menstrual fluid (blood).” Just like reusable toilet paper, reusable tampons and reusable pads, I didn’t find it very attractive. AT ALL.

But the topic kept showing up on blogs and even in magazines, so in March 2015 I finally decided to purchase one. After comparing different brands and sizes I choose to buy a Mooncup. It was delivered without any plastic. It comes with a small booklet with instructions and a tiny cotton pouch for storage.

My experience

However, it took more than a year (!!!) before I finally started to use the Mooncup. I had read the instructions and several blogs about how to insert it. In the end, it all went very smooth and the process is surprisingly easy. Not any more complicated than changing a tampon I would say.

In terms of comfort, I find it very similar to a tampon. I had no problems using it during my workouts in the gym and during running. No irritation and no leaking.

I had nightmare scenario’s in my head about removing the cup. What if the thing doesn’t come out? What if the contents splash everywhere? What about the dirty hands? But again, everything went very smooth, the horror scenario’s were completely unnecessary, I had been worried for no reason.

The material

The Mooncup is made of medical-grade silicone. Although silicone is a so-called polymer, it is not plastic. This is what Beth Terry writes about silicone in her book about living plastic-free:

“It is a man-made polymer, but instead of a carbon backbone like plastic, it has a backbone of silicon and oxygen. (Note that I’m using two different words here: silicone is the polymer and silicon, spelled without the “e” on the end, is an ingredient in silicone.) Silicon is an element found in silica, i.e., sand, one of the most common materials on earth. However, to make silicone, silicon is extracted from silica (it rarely exists by itself in nature) and passed through hydrocarbons to create a new polymer with an inorganic silicon-oxygen backbone and carbon-based side groups. What that means is that while the silicon might come from a relatively benign and plentiful resource like sand, the hydrocarbons in silicone come from fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas. So silicone is a kind of hybrid material’.”

Because it is not biodegradable and made of non-renewable resources it is maybe not as good an alternative as reusable tampons, but for me this is a good solution. By reusing the cup, you reduce waste. Moreover, tampons and similar products contain various substances that may not be so good health wise. Silicone, on the other hand, has a much better reputation and appears to have much less health risks.

Conclusion? No reason not to use!

Altogether, I am very happy that I took this step. I will continue to use the Mooncup. Now, I don’t need to remember buying menstrual products, I don’t need to pack such products when traveling and I don’t need to spend any more money on this. All the while, reducing my environmental impacts and my plastic footprint.

What’s your experience with menstrual products? Which plastic-free alternatives have you tried?
We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or find us on social media.

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About Author

Annemieke

In 2013, after reading yet another article about plastic soup, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documented her small steps towards a plastic-free life. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. She strongly believes that building a better world starts by changing our own behavior. Annemieke is an environmental scientist and sinologist. She alternates living in the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, and China while working towards her PhD dissertation about public health incidents and law in China.

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