Let’s be honest, Episode 4: Sustainable Menstruation
Let’s be honest is a Food Circle’s project with the aim to open up the conversation about the challenges when being or becoming a member of the SC (Sustainability Club). This series will shine a light on the different approaches to make life more sustainable, as well as the step-backs and difficulties that arise. Being more kind and understanding, instead of critical, will hopefully help to encourage us to try, instead of giving up when facing a step-back or failure. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a uniquely multicultural environment.
Let’s celebrate the achievements and give room for honesty and struggles!
Menstruation is still often stigmatized and sometimes even a taboo topic. Through misinformation or lack of such, menstruation is often not normalized and discrimination’s basis.
Why not talk about menstruation then?
Menstruation and the environmental, as well as social consequences, concern all. Menstruation can cause hygiene and health risks, there are stigmata and discrimination, period poverty is an issue, and additionally, menstruation products harm our environment (Unicef, 2019). With the pandemic, many do not have access to or money for menstrual products anymore. In India, the regular supply broke down for many with the closing of schools that normally provide them. The creation of awareness for more sustainable and cheaper options has been very poor (Garikipati, 2020).
Plastic menstrual products generate more than 200 000 tonnes of waste annually in the UK alone. These products mostly end up in landfills or the ocean (CSUSM, n.d; Garikipati, 2020).
The majority of menstruators use either sanitary pads or tampons. The pads are disposable and non-biodegradable. They take about 500 to 800 years to fully disintegrate, containing plastic and other such materials. Additionally, they usually contain harmful chemicals like bleach or pesticides, that are damaging the body and environment. Tampons, as well as sanitary pads, are classified as dry municipal waste. This means that the waste is not recyclable. There is no agreement yet over whether to classify menstrual waste as biomedical or plastic waste. In the last few years, there has been a graduate shift towards more sustainable and eco-friendly menstruation products. Such are biodegradable sanitary or reusable cloth napkins, period underwear, or menstruation cups. The menstruation cup is most commonly made out of silicone. They can be used for up to twelve years. (Wire Science, 2021; CSUSM, n.d.)). Reusable pads are thinner than non-biodegradable ones but regularly absorb more. They last between three to five years. Period underwear can usually hold between three to five teaspoons of blood, are absorbent and washable. If you prefer tampons, there are plastic-free applicators that work the same, just without plastic (CSUSM, n.d.).
Sustainable menstruation means limiting the negative impact disposable sanitary products have. The aim is to reduce plastic waste in oceans and landfills. The movement not only focuses on making menstruation more sustainable but is also aiming to guarantee all menstruators access to sustainable menstruation products. Due to the reusability of the products, many products, in the long run, not only offer the more sustainable, but also the cheaper option. An average amount of 12.800 dollars is spent yearly by a menstruating person on average (CSUSM, n.d.). To exemplify this: The menstruation cup has less than 1.5% of the environmental impact and 10% of the cost disposables’ have (Garikipati, 2020). Reusable menstruation products not only offer a solution for reducing our harmful impact on the environment but also propose an opportunity for reducing period poverty.
Author and Editor: Lea Annikki Kaiser
CSUSM. (n.d.). Sustainable Menstruation | Sustainability. CSUSM. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://www.csusm.edu/sustainability/resources/sustainablemenstruation.html
Garikipati, S. (2020, June 25). The future of periods can now be sustainable and cheap. The Conversation. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://theconversation.com/the-future-of-periods-can-now-be-sustainable-and-cheap-133025
Unicef. (2019, May 27). Here is why we need to stop stigmatizing menstruation. Period. UNICEF. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/mena/stories/here-why-we-need-stop-stigmatizing-menstruation-period
Wire Science. (2021, March 23). What Is Sustainable Menstruation? The Wire Science. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://science.thewire.in/environment/what-is-sustainable-menstruation/