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Tampons Are Trash

If you are still using mainstream disposable menstrual pads or tampons, you might as well be drinking out of non-biodegradable styrofoam cups! Tampons and disposable one-use menstrual products are unnecessary *trash*..."over 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of annually, and that 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along the US coastal areas between 1998 and 1999."
Tampons Are Trash
By Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)

If you are still using mainstream disposable menstrual pads or tampons, you might as well be drinking out of non-biodegradable styrofoam cups! Tampons and disposable menstrual products are unnecessary *trash* and if you are eco-conscious, you should quit using them today! There are many reasons to stop using disposable menstrual products. There are reasons borne of environmental health, anti-consumerism, anti-corporate control of our body, health, feminism, women's body esteem, and more.

In the zine "Let's Forget Everything We Learned About Being A Girl... Bloodsisters of the World... Unite and Take Over!" (which was made as part of the Belladonna DIY Fest '04), they say, "over 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of annually, and that 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along the US coastal areas between 1998 and 1999." They also said that in Ca., it is illegal to feed the leaves, stems or short fibers of cotton to livestock due to pesticide residue, but this cotton is instead allowed to be made into tampons, mattresses, cotton balls...Those statistics give us something to think about, don't they?

In recent years, biodegradable cotton menstrual products made by companies like 7th Generation, have emerged on the market, which is definitely a move in the right direction, except they are still one-use products, and due to the price range of such products, most women are still not able to use these products. And most women are still not hip to making their own cloth pads, like their grannies did. Yet women bleed monthly, and the landfills are piled high with non-biodegradable tampons and pads full of blood. There are more conscious ways to deal with our menstrual blood and the environment.

In Anne Cameron's book, "A Child of Her People," a white girl is being raised by American Indians, after they found her dying in a covered wagon accident where her family had died. White missionaries come on the scene and "rescue" the white girl, placing her in a hospital with Catholic nuns. This is how Anne describes A Child of Her People's first menstruation with the missionaries: "When her first blood moon was on her, she told Marie-Berthe and asked where the seclusion and meditation hut was for these women. Marie-Berthe laughed and told her there was none, that the women stayed in their rooms, or pretended nothing at all was happening. "They are shamed by it," she said. "But it is the most holy of times!" Child of Her People blurted. "They do not think so, "Marie-Berthe shrugged. "I was told that before Eve tempted Adam and they both sinned, there was no blood moon time for Eve. After the Sin, their God cursed her, and every month the woman bleeds, to remind her of her sin."

"Do you believe that?" Child of Her People asked carefully. "Do I look a fool?" Marie-Berthe asked, and then they were both laughing happily, but Child of Her People knew that she would keep her secret to herself, let them think she was still a little girl. Moss was easily collected, there was no need to ask anybody for cloths or any of the other gear Marie-Berthe told her the white women used."

Before the "sanitary protection" industry was created, women used absorbent materials such as moss, sponges, and cloth for their menstrual flows, for thousands of years. Most likely, your granny used cloth pads, not corporate disposable "protection." The way the "sanitary protection" industry speaks about menstruation, they make it seem like menstruation is something women should dread, abhor, fear and hide. And they act like Big Brother is here to sell you "protection" from your own body fluids. By acting like menstrual fluids are toxic, women are degraded and belittled. Several religions have heavy dogmas around menstruating women, such as sexual taboos, food preparation taboos, etc. In American culture, we teach girls and women that their genitals should not be aggrandized or symbolized in any manner outside of the control of the porn or sanitary protection industry!

Buying disposable menses products is a form of consumerism, and most menses products come from an industry and big corporations. Why support more big corporations via your menses? Why consume when you do not have to? "Sanitary protection" corporations and industries have profited by financially exploiting women's body esteem insecurities *monthly.* Why support them doing that?

Health is a reason to give up commercially made menstrual products. Disposable tampons and pads very often are full of weird chemicals, bleach, and synthetic fibers that can actually cut up your vagina and vulva like little sharp strands of glass. Some argue menstrual fluids are supposed to flow out of us, not be blocked up inside with a tampon...thus many prefer pads. I am of this school, that feels "corking" your menstrual flow is not optimum. I feel it best to just bond with women everywhere all over the planet forever, and to honor my flow.

You can easily make your own cloth pads. I often just rip up strips of flannel, fold them into a rectangle a few folds thick, and we are good to go. In an emergency, you can fold a tube sock in half! LOL! But you can also buy really nice pre-made cloth, reusable, menstrual pads from companies such as Many Moons, Pandora Pads, Lotus Pads and more. Many Moons offers a free cloth menstrual pad pattern at  http://pacificcoast.net/%7Emanymoons/howto.html.
You can download a free hip little menstrual calendar ( http://www.tamponcase.com/flow_refill.html) from Vinnie's site!
And I have listed several menstrual pride resources at the Vulva Museum also ( http://users.resist.ca/~kirstena/pagevulvamuseum2.html).

I highly recommend the following books to empower you about your menses:
A Child of Her People by Anne Cameron
Daughters of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron
Sister Moon Lodge by Kisma K. Stepanich
Buffalo Woman Comes Singing by Brooke Medicine Eagle

Cotton menstrual pads (and a copy of "Daughters of Copper Woman") are a good gift to give young girls you know who are just beginning to menstruate. A gift like that can help start girls off in a direction of honoring the menses flow, rather than "pretending nothing at all is happening," as Anne Cameron describes the white Christian women doing in "Child of Her People." Be proud of your blood. It is not toxic. It is not shameful. You do not need protection or sanitation. You just need nice DIY washable cotton pads!

homepage: homepage: http://www.kirstenanderberg.com

Local company you can support 11.Jul.2006 18:46

Anon male

Glad Rags (www.gladrags.com) is a local, women-owned company that makes and distributes reusable menstrual pads and systems. I believe they used developmentally challenged adults to sew and/or package their pads.

It's a lot better option than spending your money on cancer causing pollution supplied by Corporate America.

bloody 11.Jul.2006 20:09

my name, yeah right!

i use sea sponges...they are great.

i forgot 11.Jul.2006 20:11

my name, yeah right!

i forgot also another great book is: CUNT by inga muskio (i think thats the right spelling of her last name), this book is also great, thats where i read about sea sponges for the first time.

well... 11.Jul.2006 21:22

the first question that comes to mind is...

how often do you change these and how is everyone washing them, etc.? I hate to say it, but I think that getting the right materials are only part of the solution, and the rest is sustaining this choice. I know that with some committment I can figure out the rest, but it would be helpful to have an idea of what to routinely expect. I think it would be helpful for everyone concerned, too, since we all want to "get it right" and not run into any problems.
Good article though, Kristen I appreciate it.

Vegetarian? Environmentalist? 11.Jul.2006 22:47

Lucy Parsons

I used sea sponges for a couple years, too, until I realized a couple things -- they're animals (not plants or rocks or anything else, but tiny animals) and they're *not* a sustainable, renewable resource. Sea sponges are not from my bioregion, and they're overharvested.

And besides all that, every time I sneezed, I needed to change my underwear.

Cloth pads (or, hey, some clean socks from your drawer) are a much preferable material with which to catch blood. And there's also diaphragms and keepers, both of which are reusable.

book by Inga 11.Jul.2006 23:18


The book "Cunt" by Inga Muscio is GREAT! I'm a guy, I don't have a use for any feminine hygiene products, but still thought it a really interesting book (it was in the "stuff to read while on the toilet" basket at a house I used to live in).

In the book, Inga writes about using sea sponges and having more than one, so that one can always be drying out. She also mentions a device, I forget what it is called, it is a rubber cup that catches fluid and is rinsed out and used over and over, only one needed.

If I were a woman, I would be asking Glad Rags about making a sea-sponge pad... I could buy a couple and just use the two again and again, rinsing them out after each use.

Of course, as the oceans become more polluted by our industrial lifestyles, sea sponges will become more and more uncommon, and the ones that continue to survive will be more chemically toxic.

Sustainable, Inexpensive Alternative 12.Jul.2006 11:44

Some Guy

Try out The Keeper:


It's washable, reuseable, and lasts up to 10 years! Perfect for petrocollapse.

device 12.Jul.2006 12:49


captain planet, with that device that can be used over and over you likely mean "mooncups"

the greatest.... 12.Jul.2006 13:31

pads ever...

My kids are now 19 and 16, so it's been awhile, but I still have their cloth diapers and have used them every month since my kids were babies. Granted, I've had to replace some as they've disintigrated over the years, but you can go to JCPenney and buy the all cotton tri-fold diapers. I cut them into thirds, with the thick part in the middle, with pinking shears so they don't unravel, and then I have a few "whole" ones that I use for nighttime. Old flannel sheets sewn into "four ply" thickness rock, too. (They're so soft!) I have a little bag with a drawstring that I put the used ones into in my purse to bring home for washing.

I honestly can't uderstand how anyone (besides an uptight Victorian male) could be offended by this article.

As for cultures that have "taboos" around menstruation... if the reference is to Native American cultures... the traditions about women being separated and not cooking for men have to do with the power women hold during menstruation, not the "dirtiness" of it. Women are at their most powerful when they are bleeding, and the time is viewed as sacred to women... a time to be contemplative and freed from work. Menstrual blood is powerful medicine, and is believed to "suck" power from men. When I have Native guests (men) over when I am bleeding, I will have someone else do the cooking out of respect for that tradition.

"You are like Mother Earth, who once a year in the spring, washes herself down the river to the ocean. Everything... all the debris is washed away. Same thing with a woman, except it's every month. It's the power you have." (Cree Elder George Kehewin)

As for Inga Muscio, her newest book, "Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil" is amazing. If you want to read about Native women's wisdom regarding menstruation, try reading something written by a Native woman (Anne Cameron is not, and is about the worst cultural appropriationist i know of...) like, for instance, "Berry Plants for Women's Nutrition and Medicine" by Katsi Cook, Akwesasne Mohawk midwife from the Indigenous Women's Network and columnist for Indian Country Today.

I think we need better ways to teach our daughters about bleeding, and better ways to celebrate the rite of passage. I have seen some camps for girls designed to honor the onset of puberty, but unfortunately, every one I've seen engages in Native (and other) cultural appropriation (giving the girls "Native" sounding names, having "talking circles", sweat lodges, "vision quests", etc.) For my niece we had a sleepover with her friends with a RED theme (red decorations, red presents...) and watched "But I'm a Cheerleader!" It wasn't all woo-woo, and the girls had a great time and all of them felt like it was so cool to make a big deal about having their periods. It was great to have them all open up and talk about it casually and comfortably and ask lots of questions of we older women.

device I couldn't think of the name 12.Jul.2006 16:56


"captain planet, with that device that can be used over and over you likely mean 'mooncups'"

Actually, it was "The Keeper" that I couldn't think of the name, but I'm sure mooncups are similar. Both are things I'd advocate for, 'cause I'm anti-waste and pro-reuse, so I mention stuff like that when topics come up.

Sharing. 12.Jul.2006 19:38

Migratory Bird

Umm, this isn't scientific or anything but as soon as I gave up tampons my periods shortened from a week to 3 days, were less painful, and I think that a lot of the diseases that they are diagnosing are caused by tampons and like you say, pesticides. I mean what about cervical cancer and all that stuff- do women really think that there isn't a corelation to it? You know that wearing underwear in humid hot weather can lead to a yeast infection, right? Well think about what blocking and building up blood can do to you as well. It is a very bad idea to use tampons during times of extreme heat. Now, if I was wanting to go swimming in some kind of communal pool I would use a tampon, for a short period of time, maybe. But as it is I wouldn't use it as my first inclination. Actually, I tend to not use anything and just bleed. I have ruined pants that way. But frankly I don't care. It's a pain in the buttola to figure out special clothing. So I tend to skip it all together. OK, here is the truth. I have never smelled anyone else's period. I have never noticed period blood on the outside of anyone's clothing. Most of the women I know where black pants on their period and they skip any kind of other method. I guess if you have a heavy flow you have options, like the one's outlined.

If you wouldn't smoke because of cancer why would you use a tampon? It's just a different cancer stick, and why would you place cancer causing agents against your most vulnerable regions? I guess 7th generation would work but still clogging blood up there should be done sparingly. But I am against dams.

keepers don't allow flow tho 12.Jul.2006 19:46

kirsten anderberg

The reason I did not mention the keeper, or the sponge or even the diaphram options is those are still "plugging" or "corking," in my opinion. And they still HIDE the blood...Those options do not allow the blood to flow out, but rather hold it in. I think it really is best it FLOW OUT. That is just my personal opinion.

"Cervical cancer and stuff" 13.Jul.2006 12:20

Lucy Parsons

Once again, not speaking in favor of tampons, I just want to add a fact to the discussion: Um, cervical cancer is most closely correlated with genital warts, a virus (and the lack of treatment thereof). I'm interested in hearing all sorts of ideas about health problems that tampons cause or aggravate, but cervical cancer's not the most convincing one to be tossing around.

cloth pads care and cleaning 17.Jul.2006 09:31

yay glad rags

cloth pads are great but they stain easily, especially white ones. the best way to wash them is to first soak them in cold water for awhile, then wash in cold water. i have had great results even hand-washing with a little dr. bronners soap, if i soaked the pads first, for at least a half hour. remember, blood is a protein stain, and hot water sets protein stains. cold water is the way to go.