Let’s end period waste. Period.

Let’s end period waste. Period.

The Cup Effect is a charity and social enterprise, dedicated to lifting women and girls around the world out of period poverty through the power of menstrual cups. Their mission ‘Empowering Women, Protecting the Planet’ gives just a hint at the environmental advantages of menstrual cup use.

Today, Cup Effect volunteer Lauren Allpress talks us through her experience of menstrual cups and why we should all open our minds to cups, if not for our own sakes but for that of our planet.  

(Please note, this is a guest post as part of our brand sponsorship programme – where we invite brands who align to our values to join us on the blog, Instagram Stories and the Monday night #EthicalHour Twitter chat. If you’d like to know more and get involved, please email sponsorship@ethicalhour.co.uk).


Unlikely pub quiz tie break question: how many days will a woman be on her period for over her lifetime?

Well done if you guessed somewhere close to 3,000 days or 8.2 years, though I bet you guessed lower, because I did. 8.2 years represents my entire adult working life so far. Wowsers!


Period waste

During this period (pun intended), a woman will use around 12,000 disposable menstrual products.

This equates to two mini buses full of disposable pads or tampons for every woman on the planet.

Many will end up being incinerated, polluting our oceans and rivers, or clogging up our sewers in the form of fatbergs.

But the majority will end up in landfill and take 500 years to biodegrade. Which is mind-blowing when you think about it – if modern disposable pads had been around during the reign of King Henry VIII, they would still be with us to this day!

Pads are amongst the worst offenders when it comes to period waste.

They can be made up of 90% plastic (equivalent to four supermarket bags).

Unfortunately, tampons aren’t much better. Many contain polyester and rayon and come with plastic wrapping and their own individual plastic applicators.

And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s also worth noting that the cotton content of your average tampon is usually derived from intensive commercial cotton farms which contribute to water contamination due to runoff of fertilisers and pesticides.

Hundreds of pads, tampons and applicators were discovered strewn across British beaches last year during the Marine Conservation Society’s annual clean up weekend. If the thought of brushing your leg past a used pad whilst enjoying a quick paddle on a day trip to the seaside fills you with horror, you’re not alone.

Image via Greenpeace.


As the environmental impacts of period waste get closer to home every year, more and more women are choosing to switch to #ZeroWaste methods of period management like menstrual cups.



You might remember #ZeroWasteWeek earlier this year – a global grassroots campaign to get people thinking differently about how they can create and dispose of waste in a more planet-friendly way.

#ZeroWasteWeek is just seven days long, but the #ZeroWaste movement is about change that everyone – from you and me at home, to schools and businesses – can make every day, all year round.

Recent high profile anti-waste campaigns have shed light on the serious problems caused by single use plastics such as drinking straws and carrier bags.

It’s no longer niche to eschew the plastic drinking straw offered with your lime and soda, or to take your collection of old tote bags to the supermarket with you.

Making an anti-waste change when it comes to your period however can feel less straightforward.

Periods are infinitely more intimate than drinking and shopping.

Even in the 21st century, talking about periods and period waste can be awkward to say the least.

How many times have you whispered to a friend or colleague that you need to borrow a tampon, and then found all manner of ways to discreetly take it to the bathroom?

Let’s be honest, it hardly helps that we continue to be faced with advertising campaigns that use ominous blue water to represent our periods.

It’s time to bring that conversation out into the open.


I know that, when it comes to transitioning to a menstrual cup, the prospect is daunting to say the least.

How do you know which one will fit? How on earth are you meant to get that up there?! And isn’t the entire prospect just a little bit gross?

Well actually, it’s easier than you may think. And we’re here to help.

Menstrual cups are an ingenious solution!

A menstrual cup is a small bell-shaped item, typically made of soft medical-grade silicone, it is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. They are reusable and each one lasts for 10 years!

In addition to their #ZeroWaste and #PlasticFree credentials, menstrual cups are a safe, convenient, comfortable, reliable and cheap way of dealing with your period:


  • Menstrual cups make exercise and moving your body much easier. Are you sporty or do you love to dance? I love to swim and had gotten used to the idea that for at least one week a month, I couldn’t do my favourite (and only) form of exercise. You can barely tell you’re wearing a menstrual cup which makes all kinds of movement easy and unrestricted.
  • Going commando is always an option when you’re using a cup! This is a huge benefit for women and girls living in very low income communities.
  • No more dryness and discomfort. Hooray! Cups collect menstrual fluid where traditional products like tampons absorb it along with the other healthy fluid naturally produced by the vagina.
  • Chemical free! Pads and tampons can often contain a whole host of undesirables such as chemicals and carcinogens that, on reflection, seem like the last things you might want inside or near your one and only vagina. Menstrual cups are only made of high quality medical grade silicone which is soft, safe and easy to clean.


Reducing your waste by switching to a menstrual cup is a simple way that you can have a big impact and make another step towards a #ZeroWaste or #PlasticFree lifestyle.


Once I switched to using a menstrual cup about five years ago, It was only a couple of days until I realised that it was going to be completely transformative to my period experience. Gone were the days of expensive, uncomfortable and (let’s be real) smelly periods that would typically involve some kind of inconvenient and embarrassing leakage.

Clean, safe, environmentally friendly and leak free, using a menstrual cup had numerous unexpected benefits for me. Not least the one that I really didn’t see coming; I got to know my own vagina. In a world that women are shamed for the simple crime of being women, this felt liberating.

After years of struggling to manage my period with disposable products, I can honestly say it felt like a small, private revolution to switch to a menstrual cup.


Find out more

Head over to The Cup Effect’s website to purchase your own menstrual cup and learn more about our work supporting women and girls living on low incomes in the UK, Malawi and Kenya.

For every cup purchased from The Cup Effect two are donated to women and girls who can’t afford their own.

This means that for all the personal, financial and environmental benefits you will reap, you are also giving the gift of a whole decade of reliable, effective and safe period care to two other people in need!  


Do yourself and the planet a favour, and consider switching to a menstrual cup today and say hello to zero waste, reduced hassle periods – you won’t regret it!

In honour of Ethical Hour The Cup Effect are offering 10% off all purchases at our online shop using this coupon code: EthicalHour10. Offer valid until 31st January 2019.


Share this post:
  • Judy Reid
    Posted at 20:29h, 18 December Reply

    Let’s do this!

  • Jackie Bolen
    Posted at 17:29h, 07 January Reply

    Plastic waste during periods is just so, so unnecessary since there are much better alternatives. Menstrual cups actually work better than tampons, contain less toxic chemicals, and are also way cheaper, besides just the plastic waste thing. Basically, there’s no reason NOT to switch!

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