“In Denmark, more people seem to know what a menstrual cup is.”

The rise of sustainable replacements for menstrual products

Photo: Good Soul Shop, Unsplash

Sanitary applications are among the ten most found plastic products on European beaches. Together with their packaging, conventional disposable menstrual products are good for 200 000 tons of waste each year. Focussing on sustainability, Copenhagen seems to be one of the best cities to find environmentally friendly alternatives for these traditional products. The demand for sustainable products is rising as Madalena Limão from Organicup states: “The green market is fortunately growing a lot.”

By Renske Van Hoof

Europe produces almost 62 million tons of plastic each year of which 40 percent is used for packaging.

According to the European Commision factsheet only 30 percent of all the plastic waste is recycled. The rest is incinerated or used for landfill.

Although Denmark is often portrayed as a country focussing on climate change, the small nation scores mediocre as it comes to plastic packaging recycling.

Regular menstrual products consist almost entirely of plastic: 90 percent of a menstrual pad contains this climate harming product.

Tampons seem to be a more sustainable choice, but these ones are composed of polyethylene and polypropylene. Both gained from chemical processes and used in a variety of plastic products such as bags, cables and cling film.

Even though polyethylene can be obtained using renewable resources, it is mostly made from petroleum.

During her lifetime, each woman produces approximately 200 kilograms of waste only from tampons, applicators and pads.

Sanitary waste

“In Denmark, more people seem to know what a menstrual cup is, the awareness is higher, ” says Madalena Limão, creative product manager at Organicup.

The Copenhagen founded brand produces menstrual cups for women around the world and hopes to have an environmental, social and cultural impact on the world.

A menstrual cup is comparable to a tampon, but it is reusable. To clean the cup, it is sufficient to simply rinse it with water. Made from silicone, the product doesn’t have such big consequences on our climate. Silicone is a natural element which can be found in sand and quartz.

Next to the goal of making the mainstream sanitary products more sustainable, Organicup would like to change our society’s attitude towards periods. “Menstruating is definitely not that much of a taboo here in Denmark as it is in other countries, but the taboo is still around due to the lack of knowledge and stigmatisation”, claims Limão.

Though sexual education in Denmark is mandatory since 1970 and doesn’t only focus on sex itself. Also puberty, gender rights and emotions are topics of discussion. The Scandinavian country is seen as one of the most progressive and high performing countries as it comes to sex education.

Organicup works hard to touch on these topics in other countries around the world too, hence the launch of their project TABOO. According to the Danish company it is important to destigmatise the cultural taboo around menstruation.

The idea of the project is to serve as a global platform. People can gain insight on different lifestyles around the world with one thing in common: periods.

Working together with a variety of NGO’s and partners, the initiative aims to start the conversation and unveil the still existing taboo around periods. Concretely this is done by gifting the menstruation cups to women and girls in schools, medical facilities and shelters.