Here at A Bloody Good Cause HQ, we’ve had a lot of questions and suggestions about donations of alternatives to traditional sanitary towels and tampons.
The “average woman” (no, I haven’t met her either) will dispose of around 300lb of sanitary products during her lifetime. That’s a lot of money down the toilet, and a lot of bloody rags taking their sweet time to decompose in a rubbish heap somewhere.
More and more women are turning to alternative sanpro: “alternative” usually meaning reusable, convenient and environmentally-friendly, and generally dividing into two categories – menstrual cups and reusuable pads. To dispel the myths that alternative sanpro are just too much faff for their foof, here’s a rundown of some of the products currently making big red waves in the UK and beyond.
Menstrual cups have been around in one form or another for the past century or so. In the UK, the most well-known brand (one that has now gone global) is the Mooncup.
The Mooncup is a two-inch long silicon cup, that collects menstrual blood by sitting low in the vagina. It forms a seal against the vaginal walls to prevent leakage. You take it out every eight hours, rinse and repeat.
- Causes less irritation and dryness than sanitary pads or tampons – up to a third of what a tampon absorbs is natural vaginal secretion (coincidentally, the name of a perfume A Bloody Good Cause is hoping to launch next year).
- Can collect up to three times as much blood as a tampon.
- Eight hours of blood collection.
- Can last you years.
- £19.99 to last you a lifetime (the average UK woman reportedly spends around £90 a year on sanpro).
- Won’t cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS), every woman’s secret fear every time she has a tampon in.
- A little fiddly to use at first (though the same can be said of tampons). The website’s “how to” video doesn’t actually give you a vagina graphic such as you find on tampon packaging – I think this would be useful to help visualise the process.
- Could potentially get a bit messy in public toilets, tipping your blood hither and thither and giving the cup a little wipe.
- They suggest cleaning it between periods by putting it into an open pan of boiling water. “What’s for dinner, darling?” “THE DISINFECTED REMAINS OF ANOTHER WASTED OVUM.”
- £19.99 upfront as opposed to a pound on some sannies down Savers.
- Three words: Removal. Suction. Noises.
As Sabrina Rubli writes in her article for the Huffington Post, “for women in North America, [a menstrual cup] makes your period simple and hassle-free. For women in developing countries, it can be a life-changing solution.”
When there is no need to worry about changing a pad, women and girls can relax more about carrying on with schooling and other tasks during their menses. NGO Femme International is working with schools in East Africa to deliver menstrual hygiene management workshops – you can donate a cup here.
Reusable cloth pads are the original pads. In the days before our disposable pad habit, rags and cloth were the bloodguard of the hour. But, recently, the economic impact of disposable pads has come under scrutiny, especially in less “developed” parts of the world.
The incredible story of Arunachalam Muruganantham,who created a machine with which to make affordable sanitary pads in India (and who has since expanded globally; you can watch the documentary “Menstrual Man”, about his journey, here), is one such reaction to the unsustainable cost of conventional sanitary pads. He was shocked to discover his wife used an old rag as her menstrual shield as they could not afford the local prices for pads.
Global reusable pads are not just battling with economic factors, but also grappling with hygiene and taboo, as well as hoping to overcome the obstacle a period can present in terms of a girl’s education. If a girl cannot afford suitable sanpro during her period, she will miss school for however many days each month. In their search for more sustainable forms of sanpro, many providers are also looking for ways to make these pads the as environmentally-friendly as possible.
AFRIpads have produced a pad for women in Africa, good for a year’s use, that dries in two hours; Uger menstrual pads provide handmade cotton reusable pads for women in India; Anandi pads, also in India, offer both non-compostable and compostable pads, the latter being made of local agriwaste. Athenapad are doing the same in Malaysia, with a charitable twist: if you purchase a reusable pad from them, they supply one to a girl in need.
Flo is a bit different from the other reusable pads on the market. The brainchild of Japanese design student Mariko Higaki Iawi, Flo follows an ingenious design. It comprises a pouch, to carry a clean pad and then a soiled one, and a spinner that allows you to wash and “spin dry” the soiled pad, which then transofrms into a hanger covered by a cloth, so that it may be hung outside without embarrassment or taboo. (Watch the video here.)
Alternative sanitary products are working towards a future of sanitary provision that is environmentally-conscious and economically-sustainable. A Bloody Good Cause would be delighted to receive any menstrual cups or reusuable pads you may wish to send our way!
Until next month,