Half of the pop­u­la­tion will exper­i­ence about 450 peri­ods from the first men­stru­ation to men­o­pause. On aver­age, men­stru­ation lasts over 40 years, from 12 to 52 years old. In the course of their lives, each men­stru­at­ing per­son uses an aver­age of around 14,000 dis­pos­able tam­pons and pads. But who has ever ser­i­ously thought about the impact of dis­pos­able products on their budget or the environment?

How much do we actu­ally spend on men­strual products?

Since there are no offi­cial stud­ies in Ger­many on how much a per­son spends on men­strual products in their life, we will quickly give you a simple cal­cu­la­tion. In order to not to make the cal­cu­la­tion too com­plic­ated, we will simply assume five men­strual days per cycle and con­sider only the most neces­sary addi­tional costs. If only tam­pons and panty liners are used, the costs for the fol­low­ing cal­cu­la­tion amount to around 6.60 $ per cycle:

20 tam­pons x 0,22 $ per piece = 4,40 $
10 pantyl­iners0,22 $ per piece = 2,20 $

4,40 $ for tam­pons + 2,20 $ for pantyl­iners = 6,60 $ per cycle
450 peri­ods x 6,60 $ per cycle = 2.970,00 $ lifetime

In order to cover the basic annual need for dis­pos­able men­strual products, a men­stru­at­ing per­son spends an aver­age of about 80.00 $. With a total of 450 peri­ods in life, the costs for tam­pons and panty liners are around 3,000 $. This includes neither pads nor other men­strual prod­cuts. Also pain medi­cine or hot-water bottles are not included in this cal­cu­la­tion. From an eco­nomic point of view, the dis­pos­able men­strual products used every month are there­fore a luc­rat­ive busi­ness for man­u­fac­tur­ers. This means that the devel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing of reusable and sus­tain­able men­strual products is not attract­ive for many large com­pan­ies and there­fore receives little media atten­tion. The cul­tural taboos on men­stru­ation also con­trib­ute to the suc­cess of the dis­pos­able men­strual product industry.
Mean­ing that peri­ods are prag­mat­ic­ally also an expense factor. How­ever, there are good news here: In Ger­many men­strual products will only be taxed at the simple rate of 7% from 2020 onwards. Cur­rently, the max­imum rate of 19% VAT is levied on men­strual products. Next year it will show whether man­u­fac­tur­ers will pass the tax reduc­tion on to con­sumers or con­ceal the actual price change through decept­ive pack­aging and other dubi­ous procedures.

Men­stru­ation as a monthly waste production

A global prob­lem in this con­text is the envir­on­mental impact caused by the reg­u­lar use of dis­pos­able products, some of which are chem­ic­ally treated. Start­ing with cot­ton, for example. The cul­tiv­a­tion and trans­port of cot­ton con­sume valu­able resources such as water, fuel and human labour. Only to end up in the garbage after only a few hours of use. In Ger­many, all men­stru­at­ing people pro­duce more than 20,000 tons of waste with dis­pos­able products in the course of their lives. 20,000 tons cor­res­pond to 20 mil­lion kilos of waste. In terms of quant­ity – and these are only the men­strual products – these are 170,000 bathtubs filled with waste. Let us be more aware of the products that come into con­tact with our bod­ies and their impact on the envir­on­ment.
The European Com­mis­sion was dis­cuss­ing a ban on dis­pos­able men­strual products. How­ever, this could not be adop­ted when the law to reduce the use of dis­pos­able plastic products was passed. The reason for this is that dis­pos­ble men­strual products belong to those items where there are none or only insuf­fi­cient altern­at­ives accesible.

Which sus­tain­able men­strual products do already exist?

There are also envir­on­ment­ally friendly and reusable options out there. These include, for example, men­strual cups, fab­ric pads, nat­ural sponges, leak-proof under­wear or free bleed­ing, where no products are needed at all. The same altern­at­ives that make men­stru­ation more sus­tain­able for wealthy people, often make it more bear­able for people in poorer coun­tries.
But only those who know altern­at­ive products can use them for years to come and bene­fit from their advant­ages. Sus­tain­able men­strual items are often more expens­ive to buy than con­ven­tional dis­pos­able products. Over time, how­ever, reusable altern­at­ives can save money. Access to men­strual products is there­fore no longer dir­ectly linked to a person’s fin­an­cial situ­ation. It is time to develop sus­tain­able men­strual products and bring them into the main­stream at reas­on­able prices!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Co-Founder Vul­vani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vul­vani. She loves research­ing, writ­ing and design­ing new art­icles or innov­at­ive edu­ca­tional con­cepts about men­stru­ation all day long. When she is not trav­el­ling the world, she enjoys spend­ing time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.