This Single Thing Just Might Save Our Planet (and Us)

This single magical thing is… a menstrual cup.

If you menstruate but don’t use one, the time to start is now.

You should also nag your friends and family into using one.

Maybe buy tons of menstrual cups and hand them out like Santa Claus.

But why?

Because disposable sanitary pads are killing our planet, and by extension, us.

Firstly, here are some worrying facts about sanitary products:

  • Up to 90% of disposable pads are made of single-use-plastic
  • Up to 6% of tampons consist of plastic too
  • A regular disposable sanitary pad is an equivalent of four plastic bags
  • The plastic isn’t biodegradable nor recyclable and takes up to 800 years to decompose


All these sanitary products have to end up somewhere, right? So they land up in landfills. Some even make their way into the ocean. In fact, menstrual products are the fifth most common plastic waste product found in the ocean.

To add to that, if we were to hazard a rough estimate, every menstruating person uses approximately 5,000 to 15,000 sanitary pads in their lifetime. 

That’s a lot of plastic that’s going to be sitting around for the next 800 years. 

Picture credit: Sora Shimazaki @ Pexels

On why this is a horrible, horrible thing

Two words: plastic pollution.

As the plastic piles up, the biggest losers are you and me.

Some rapid-fire on the horrible, horrible things that plastic pollution has done to us:

Circling back to our initial topic of sanitary products, pads are made with up to 90% crude oil plastics that can contain BPA. Yes, the same BPA that might cause the aforementioned ailments.

Therefore, it is dire that we reduce our plastic usage ASAP.

Strive for a plastic-free period!

Thankfully, having menstruation does not have to mean adding to the plastic waste.

Enter: menstrual cups.

A menstrual cup is a small, flexible cup. You insert it into your vagina so that it sits there like a tampon and collects blood. If inserted properly, a seal sticks the cup to the walls to prevent leaks. At regular intervals, you empty the cup, wash it, and insert it back in. At the end of the period, you might like to soak the cup in boiling water to kill the germs. Repeat during the next menstrual cycle. The process is genius because there is zero plastic usage.

Picture credit: Anna Shvets @ Pexels

On top of saving our environment, menstrual cups have many other advantages. For one, they are more economical than disposable sanitary products. An RM80 cup can last you for many years.

Furthermore, you can keep it in longer. Unlike pads and tampons that have to be changed every four hours, you can leave your menstrual cup in for 10-12 hours.

Moreover, they smell better. Menstrual blood may stink when exposed to air, but when they are sealed in by a cup, tada, no odour!

Convinced? Things to note when acquiring a menstrual cup

Not all menstrual cups are created equal. There are some important factors to consider when shopping for the perfect fit:

  • Size. Finding the right size might be a challenge. The manufacturer usually has recommendations based on age, cervix size, whether you’ve given birth, and how heavy your flow is. Wearing the wrong size may lead to leaks and discomfort, which is sadly the biggest downside to menstrual cups.
  • Material. Most cups are made of medical-grade silicone, rubber, latex, or elastomer. It’s helpful to learn which you prefer, especially if allergies are a concern.
  • Removal method. Ring, stub, ribs, no ribs, long stem, short stem — take your pick. There are also cups that come with a removal tool.
Picture credit: Nataliya Vaitkevich @ Pexels

Other plastic-free alternatives

If you don’t want to plague our planet with plastic, but don’t think that menstrual cups are for you either, why not check out these other alternatives:

  • Menstrual disc. They are similar to menstrual cups, except in disc form.
  • Menstrual sponge. Think tampons, except it’s actually an aquatic organism that is incredibly absorbent.
  • Period underwear. Wear them like how you wear any other underwear. Yes, they can replace pads.
  • Reusable pads. These are like regular sanitary pads, except washable. They can be reused and reused and reused.
Picture credit: Karolina Grabowska @ Pexels

Find the best fit

Having said that, it might take you a while to find the right fit. Maybe menstrual cups aren’t your cup of tea. There’s no shame in that. Perhaps a reusable pad is more suitable. Do whatever works best for you, even if it means alternating between regular disposable pads and plastic-free alternatives.

At the end of the day, your comfort matters, as does the environment. Both matter, so find yourself the perfect balance.

Chow Ping Lee is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Chow Ping Lee
Author: Chow Ping Lee

My guiding principle: The mediocrely courageous live a long, happy life.