Folks, this is about my "consumption" of plastic over the next year. I'm looking at what I have, what I buy, and why I seem to need this hundred and fifty year old man-made concoction more than my mother's fried chicken.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Week 48: Bloody Plastic

This post is about plastics and the menstrual cycle. The period. The moon cycle. The rag. Red Tide. A visit from Aunt Flo. Rio de roja. Whatever you call it, you are likely to dam it (and damn it) with plastic. I have been using tampons and maxi pads for 20 years. Hmm...I sense some fun math calculations coming on...

Because I know you are dying to know how many maxi pads and tampon applicators I have used and disposed of so far, here are the current totals:

total # of pads = 1,200 (20 years x 12 cycles x 5 pads per cycle)
total # pad packages = 1,200 (20 years x 12 cycles x 5 pad packages per cycle)
total # of sticky tabs = 3,600 (20 years x 12 cycles x 15 sticky tabs per cycle)
total # of tampon applicators = 720 (5 years x 12 cycles x 12 tampon applicators per cycle)
total # of OB tampon packages = 2,016 (15 years x 12 cycles x 12 OB tampons per cycle)
total # of Instead soft cups = 120 (2 years x 12 cycles x 5 Insteads per cycle)
total # of Instead packages = 120 (2 years x 12 cycles x 5 Instead packages per cycle)
total # of plastic items = 8,976 (sum of all items listed above)
total cost of my period = $811.12 (adding avg. cost of pads, tampons, OB, Instead & multiplying by total items used in those categories + the cost of The Keeper kit)

I have sent roughly 9,000 little plastic bits of garbage to the landfills or incinerators in the name of my moon cycle.

Because I was hellbent on NOT keeping any of my dog's poop, household garbage, OR my own "red tide catchment systems", I had to find negotiations on that one. I've already written about Poopbags and now I bring you The Keeper. I bought The Keeper kit for $45.99. I received the tiniest brown box in the mail and I opened it like some buried treasure chest. And there she was, natural gum rubber (latex) in her own little fairy dust pouch. She was nestled in with her sidekicks; two tacky, floral, cotton, machine-washable pantyliners. If cared for properly, these products should last a decade.

I waited patiently for my first opportunity to take my Keeper for a test drive. When the time came, I found that I was...operationally challenged. After 5 failed attempts, I thought, "Hmmm, I cannot imagine this thing being comfortable once I do get it in. I mean, it's a thick rubber chalice for godssake!" I try, try, try again and finally, voila! The Keeper is kept. Then comes the challenge of...pouring the wine out of the chalice. The first few attempts were messy and it required some finesse to master a clean pour.

That was many moons ago. 11 to be exact. Now I am a Keeper expert, skilled in the ways of the "pinch, fold, & pop" and the "pour & rinse" methods. If I can do it, so can you, or your wife, girlfriend, sister or any random woman you want to share this with on the street.

And you will tell them, because I said so.

This is a good visual if you need support for your argument. And if that isn't enough, check out this New York Times article about the city's sewage treatment plant. And if that still isn't enough, take it from the plumbers on Flush TV. I recommend watching Episode One as well.

Plastic and cardboard applicators are designed to help us avoid contact with our own lady part. After the tampon spends some time us, if we do not send it to the landfill or incinerator by throwing it the garbage, we banish it to the toilet underworld where it joins billions of other tampons to wreak havoc on our sewers and waste water treatment plants. And disposable pads? They stink and who really wants to sit in their own blood if they don't have to?

In all seriousness, this is the best thing that has come out of this blog. Culture and conventional menstrual products are designed to distance a woman from this natural, unique, and beautiful process. That's right. I equated blood with beauty. Not all blood shed is violent. Most tampons are made of pesticide grown cotton that is then bleached. And this is something that the FDA says is fine to put into one of the most sacred and important places in the human body 12 weeks out of the year for 40-50 years? What is our obsession with whiteness anyway? Especially if it is just going to be soaked in blood, pee, or poop...

This is a wake up call for me and I hope it is for you too. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there might not be any good reason for the tampon & maxi pad industry to exist at all. Yes, it requires adjustment, change, and a likely overdue reunion with your bits. I used to dread my cycle and see it as an unfair price to pay for being a woman. What I didn't realize is that it wasn't the period I dreaded; it was all the garbage that came with it. And would you believe? Once I made the change and reduced that heavy flow waste stream, my cycles followed suit.

Too much information? Good. I didn't think so.


kate said...

one of the nice side effects of pregnancy is you don't get your period for about a year! but then again you bleed for something like SIX weeks after delivery....ugh!

good info! I made sure to read when the West Wing boys were no where to be found, can you imagine if they read that over my shoulder?!?!? ;)


kristi said...

so my good friend actually bought me the lady cup (oh, the songs i have made up in my head over the name of that device), because she knew i wanted to try it but probably wouldn't be brave enough to get it myself. and she was right...

so i tried using it for 2 different cycles, and i don't know if it's because i have had 3 babies, or if i'm just freaked out, but i am just freaked out. so maybe you can send me some encouragement via email. :)

Chelsea said...

Sunnye! Best Blog ever! I always use O.B.'s but now that doesn't even seem to cut it.

Remember yoga at Christi's???? ah-haha! I'm glad to see you stayed with it.

love you and miss you and miss your sassypants, no holds barred, ass kickin 'tude.

eclecticity said...

Thanks to your suggestion and my preference for buying things that'll last a decade I got one of these about 5 months ago. It was rough for a while...Mine has a stem and I had to adjust it to fit me better.(I got the latex free one) And I had to find the right angle and way to twist it so it wouldn't leak. (even if it did leak it wasn't the end of the world since the leaks were minor) Now that I have that figured out I do realize why people can leave these in and forget about them...and they are safe to wear overnight!!! And you only have to deal with it twice a day (morning and night) I sound like a spokeperson for the product but I higly reccomend to all that as long as you really give it a try that it'll be cheaper, less plastic, safer, etc. etc.

Good luck women!

Sunnye said...

Kate-6 weeks!!! Oy! I know that Heather D sent the link t Danny since the Aquarium softball team's name is...Red Tide.

Kristi--yes. Do you remember the scene from the movie "The Three Amigos"? "my little lady cup, has the Dear little lady cup, won't you stay a while." Important question: Do you know if you have size A or B? You can absolutely, positively make this change. After WITNESSING you giving birth to Aedan...umm...Kristi-you can DO THIS. And when Gillian takes her first sail on the Red Sea, you will say..."back in my day, we used to use these things made out of cotton & plastic and we would throw them out after only using them one time!" And Gillian will say, "Wow mom. That was dumb." And then Gillian will become President someday and sign off on all sorts of great anti-tampon legislation. It's gonna be great.

CHELSEA!! Oh yes I remember yoga at Christi's. Oy. No tampons. No toilet paper. NO YOGA. Give the rotifers a kiss for me and SKYPE ME.

Sunnye said...

Thanks for the comment. ;) Yes, the stem (aka, "the pull tab" as I like to call it) took some getting used to--I almost feel like the stem doesn't need to be quite as long as it is, but I still love it.

Andrea said...

Thanks for this great entry. I've always washed my own pads, or used tampons and maxis when I've gotten lazy or forgot to bring the washables (and the guilt always piles on...). Your synopsis of the Keeper makes it sound almost do-able!

That said, your blog is really amazing. It's so refreshing to have information presented without ideas jammed down one's throat.

Sunnye said...

Andrea--so glad you are reading! Your comment really means a lot to me because:
A) I love hearing the "washables" women crowd chime in
B) It's a relief to hear from (at least one person) that it doesn't feel like I am jamming anything down anyone's throat. I have a tendency to be opinionated, but I try to be aware of that and temper it with some proof-reading & editing!
I really appreciate it--keep commenting!!

Fawn said...

So Sunnye, it has clearly been too long. I read your opening paragraph and thought, “no, her whole blog couldn’t be about her cycle…maybe just a paragraph or two.” Clearly I have forgotten how wonderful you are and how dedicated you are. I miss you!!!! I have to honestly say I have never heard of the lady cup. I am very intrigued and once I stop popping out kids I will give it a try. I figure since I’ve pooped my pants in front of you (a couple times) and I have cleaned your puke and poop off the floors (and walls) you can fly to WI to help me out with the logistics. ; ) I love you!

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