Menstrual cups are the future. Period.

Photo: Gurinder Sahota, Flickr creative commons

Photo: Gurinder Sahota, Flickr creative commons

You might say the issue is taboo. It is rare for anyone, male or female, to have an open discussion regarding periods. And yet for women, it is a big part of their lives for an extended amount of time and it creates a vast amount of waste.

According to health care professionals, the average woman begins menstruating in her pre-teen years, and continues her cycle until reaching menopause, around the age of 50.

Let's consider the math. If a woman receives her period at age 12, that equals out to approximately 38 years of her monthly visitor. If this same woman uses 20 tampons, 5 pads and 10 panty liners per cycle, that equals 240 tampons, 60 pads and 120 panty liners per year. In her lifetime she will throw out roughly 9,120 tampons, 2,280 pads, and 4,560 panty liners. That is a colossal amount of waste!

According to Statistics Canada, there were 17.2 million females in Canada in 2010. That means roughly 4.1 billion tampons, 1 billion pads and 2 billion panty liners are being thrown out annually in Canada alone. These numbers aren’t an exact calculation, but they are some astonishing numbers and they paint an extremely ugly picture of waste added to landfills every year.

Thankfully, there is a silver light on the horizon. There are many eco-friendly alternatives out there that are becoming more popular. The DivaCup, the Lunette, and the Keeper are some of the different menstrual cups that are currently available; however, the DivaCup is the only menstrual cup that Health Canada allows to be sold in Canada. Some pad and panty liner alternatives include Lunapads, Goddess Moons and New Moon Pads.

What exactly is a menstrual cup, you ask? It is a bell-shaped cup made of silicone or rubber that is used to collect menstrual flow. It is reusable and comes in different sizes. It can be worn up to 12 hours depending on a woman’s flow, and can also be worn overnight.

Reusable pads and panty liners are generally made with a cloth pad and a removable insert that can be changed throughout the day. They come in all different colours, shapes and sizes.

Another bonus of these alternative feminine hygiene products is how cost-efficient they are. Menstrual cups are around $40, and reusable pads range from $5-$20 depending on size, quality and quantity. This may seem like a steep price to pay at first, but since they are all reusable for extended periods of time, you save considerably in the long run.

Tampons and pads can also be harmful to a woman’s health. Tampons can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome, vaginal dryness, vaginal ulcers and serious hygiene problems, according to the Canadian Government.

Considering all of the benefits of alternative feminine hygiene products, it is hard to find a reason why they are not more widely known. Advertising could be an issue, as many women are simply unaware that there are any alternatives at all. Insertion of the menstrual cups could play a factor as well, as it can be uncomfortable and messy. The convenience of being able to throw away used pads and tampons instead of having to clean them afterwards could also turn women away.

But when you weigh the positives of these substitutions to the negative, the benefits are hard to ignore. You can make a difference by letting women know how they can save money, have lower health risks and help the environment one period at a time.