‘Fatberg. What happens to your tampon?’

Jun 8, 2018 | All, Lets Get Natural, Period, Wellness | 1 comment

Flusher or Binner? Or maybe you’re floating somewhere in between (specific times call for specific measures, right?). Wherever you are on the flusher vs binner debate, don’t worry, we aren’t pointing any fingers. We too have definitely had our share of without-a-care-in-the-world-flushing times, or left a tampon (filled with chemicals) somewhere we probably shouldn’t have. It’s pretty impossible to be perfect all the time and even harder if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. Until recently there has been little education on the impact of our period practices on the deep blue seas and natural environment. We blame this on the taboo nature of our periods and therefore, the taboo nature of discussing our disposal practices. We’re told to treat our periods like they don’t exist, so why talk about the messiest part of the whole thing? Mainstream tampon brands sneakily perpetuate the illusion of a ‘mess-free’ period with their only advice on the box being the icon of a little toilet and an X through it…but no explanation. In fact, has anyone or any organisation that tells us not to flush really given us the in’s and out’s of why not to? So, in line with the recent world appreciation days (it was World Oceans Day on Tuesday and today is World Environment Day) we’re delving into the impact of our personal period practices. Yes, we’ve given you eco-menstruation tips before, but for the sake of World Oceans Day, we’re going sea deep with this one.

Flushing our tampons down the loo seems to be the niftiest disappearing act there is (especially when you haven’t even farted in front of your new boo let alone left them a super absorbent treat in their bin) but it really is ‘too good to be true’. To flush is presenting your tampon with a non-negotiable one way ticket to the ocean. (As much as a one way ticket to the seaside sounds dreamy, this is obviously not quite the same image.) Some of us may think that living in the U.K means we have top of the notch sewage systems that must be able to capture those pesky little buggers before ending up in the seas, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Our water management systems are not designed to filter out tampons and other things like wet wipes and condoms, so what happens then? Time to get down and dirty… In the last year there has been a fatberg (yup, you heard right) epidemic in U.K sewage systems. It almost sounds laughable, but fatbergs are actually a pretty big deal. Okay, but seriously, who decided to name them fatbergs and did I really not just dream this term? Fatbergs are totally solid sewer blockages made up of cooking oil, tampons, condoms, wet wipes (and other things that get flushed) and can literally cost millions of pounds to remove. In the meantime, on-coming sewage either overflows through broken pipes or spills back out of toilets, and through drains onto streets. Based on the stats, roughly 1.5 to 2 billion menstrual products get flushed down the drain each year in the U.K alone and thanks to these fatbergs, and other blockages, a large portion of this overflows and ends up in our oceans.

What happens then?

Once in the ocean, mainstream tampons (you know, the synthetic type that is all supermarkets stock) will take 500 years to biodegrade thanks to the plastics, man-made fibres and toxic chemicals that fill their ingredients list. Aside from the fact that taking 500 years to biodegrade feels just as bad as not biodegrading at all, can you imagine the impact that the crap from more than two billion synthetic tampons has on our oceans and marine life over this 500 year period? (Another hideous fact: that number is doubling every year. Eek.) Whilst organic tampons only take up to 5 years to decompose and don’t contain harmful chemicals, we still say ‘don’t flush it’, even to the ones we make here at OHNE. Sorry Babe. We’ve all seen those stomach-churning images of our gorgeous marine animals washing up on shore with a dumpster full of rubbish in their tummies, and organic tampons are not any exception to this rule. If it wasn’t made in the ocean, it shouldn’t be in the ocean.

So why is binning better?

Aside from protecting the sewage systems and beautiful marine life, is binning even that much better? Used tampons are (obviously) not recyclable and they do end up in landfills if you bin them. The good news, however, is that they also disappear. Well, organic ones do. If you’re using organic tampons, you can bet your ass that’s gonna biodegrade much quicker than a mainstream one (we’re talking almost 100 times quicker). Within 5 years that organic tampon will have disappeared and in the process of bio-degrading will have had no harmful effects (chemical free!) on its surrounding environment. By putting it in a bin you can almost guarantee it won’t end up in the ocean. (Yes, there are some risks that strong winds and storms can blow rubbish from landfills into rivers, but unless you’re Bruce Almighty, we reckon we can all let that one slide.) Your mainstream synthetic one though will still be hanging around to greet your great grandchildren, should they happen to partake in a landfill educational trip. Gross.

So next time you’re at your bae’s and on the verge of flushing? If the image of the polluted oceans isn’t enough, think about a fatberg pushing that little bugger right back up. That’s definitely a conversation we’re never gonna risk having.

 

Image courtesy of one of our top fave eco-blogger babes Zanna Van Dijk (if you haven’t already, check her out). 

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