Look, I’ve thought long and hard about posting this. There is an “Ick” factor about talking about feminine hygiene and sanitary products so I shan’t go on about it. Or aren’t all women supposed to go on about their periods, according to men? Well, we don’t, do we? Not unless here’s something worrying us and even then only to our closest confidantes. I am aware that I am risking ridicule or embarrassment by posting this but I have had two children with very difficult births so precious little embarrasses me anymore.
However, *takes deep breath, drops shoulders* I recently came across something on Twitter which made me think more deeply about the impact of disposable sanitary products on the environment. Apparently, women use on average 12,000 sanitary towels and tampons during their lifetime. All of these and their attendant paraphernalia such as applicators or wrappers have to be deposed of somehow. Most meet their end in landfill sites or in the oceans, where they take many decades to degrade. This is the real Ick factor, don’t you think? I have also read somewhere that sanitary towels and tampons flushed down toilets cause a large proportion of all plumbing problems in urban areas. This is yet another first world environmental problem but one about which no-one ever speaks.
The thing that I came across on Twitter was called the Mooncup, a soft silicon cup worn low to make a seal with the vaginal walls, where it collects the menstrual flow for it to be emptied every few hours and tipped down the lavatory. The cup is then rinsed or wiped out and re-inserted. That’s all there is to it. No carrying around stocks of sanitary towels, tampons and disposal bags in one’s handbag. No having to carry used items around looking for a place to dispose of them. No expense after the initial £20 outlay. No harmful chemicals or bleaches polluting the environment. No allergens. And no waste.
The Mooncup might not be for the squeamish, initially, that is true, but who thinks that any other sanitary protection method is without mess? It is all a really yucky business, there’s no denying it. And it does take a while to find the correct positioning of the Mooncup inside the body. During this time it’s probably wise to use a back-up method but that’s still far less wasteful and environmentally harmful than using disposable sanitary items for the best part of a week every month isn’t it?
There are two sizes, one for younger women and one for those who have given birth or are older. Full, clear instructions are provided and a helpline for extra support. It is best to trim the stem to minimise any discomfort and you wash it thoroughly and keep it in its own little cotton bag for next time you need to use it.
When I became aware of the Mooncup, I truly mourned for all those years that I had thoughtlessly chucked away disposables, which in themselves often aren’t reliable. I was sad that I had not heard of the Mooncup until now, although it was actually invented in the 1930s. This product is not advertised, partly because of peoples’ sensitivities but also because it is manufactured by a small ecologically-friendly company that cannot hope to compete with the multi-national corporations that manufacture the well known brands of sanitary protection.
So, I’d say, at least Google the Mooncup and maybe give it a go. Maybe talk about it to younger women or girls going through puberty. If you can get over your initial resistance, it will pay for itself in a couple of months and you might just have found a way to do another little bit towards a cleaner, safer environment for our future generations.
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