Hey, we’ve all been there. The oh-so-tempting convenience of pulling out an uncomfortable tampon and wanting to flush it right down the toilet seems like the perfect mess-free thing to do. We hear you -- and we wish it were true.
But please, whatever you do, do your part and don’t flush your tampons -- keep reading to learn more, instead!
To Flush or To Throw
Ladies that prefer flushing their used tampons over tossing them in the trash are usually concerned with unpleasant smells in the bin, leaving behind an unpleasant sight and discreteness, especially in public restrooms where it often happens that trash bins are missing liners.
It may seem that the simplest and best option for both women and the people who clean public restrooms is to flush, but considering how many problems it causes, this might not be the best way to dispose of our tampons.
The most obvious issue is the plumbing -- pads and tampons often cause clogging, which costs not only money but time and a headache or two. For that reason, there are usually signs in public restrooms that remind the guests not to toss anything besides toilet paper into the toilet bowl.
Tampons and Clogged Toilets
Some women are under the impression that if they don’t have a septic system, you can flush all the tampons you want down the toilet. As background, if your house happens to have a septic system, that is an individual sewer unit owned by the person who owns the house. But if it's part of a sewer system, then it’s connected to other homes in the surrounding area and is the sole responsibility of the government.
Septic systems are not designed for dealing with large amounts of sanitary waste, so it’s important that you do not flush tampons down the toilet. But, even if you are part of a sewer system, flushing your tampons is still not a good idea.
Even the biodegradable tampons that do eventually break down take much longer to do so than paper, which means it definitely won’t happen while they’re making their way through your pipes or the sewage treatment system.
In fact, tampons are actually created to absorb liquid and expand, so they are doing quite the opposite of what toilet paper does once you flush them down the drain.
Items like tampons that shouldn’t be flushed can end up clogging your pipes on your property or causing huge issues once they make their way into our septic system. When sewer pipes get back up, wastewater overflows, often from manholes. Untreated wastewater can make its way to different waterways.
Wait, so it’s bad for the environment, too?
Not only will it ruin your expensive plumbing system, but flushing tampons is also extremely bad for the environment!
If your tampons don't get stuck in the sewage pipes and they make their way to the sewage plant, the process to break them down and filter them is pretty pricey and not to mention, a bit challenging. If done correctly, they just end up going to a landfill -- where they would have gone if you just threw them away in the first place -- but if done incorrectly, which is unfortunately often the case, the results can be much worse…
While in some cases, sanitary products get filtered out and sent to landfills, in many cases they don't, and instead, they get sent to the ocean with the rest of the waste in the sewer system. Since the products take a long time to break down, that means they often end up in not only oceans but rivers, streams, lakes, and creeks -- and fully intact! And because so many individuals use sanitary products -- and a lot of them flush them down the toilet -- the amount of plastic that ends up in different waterways due to sanitary products is staggering.
In fact, roughly 2.5 million tampons get flushed down the toilet per day. And that’s not even including panty liners and pads. Even if just a small percentage of that ends up on the ocean, that is still tons and tons of plastic each year. And not only is that kind of contamination bad news for the environment, but it’s extremely costly.
Products such as paper towels, wipes, and feminine hygiene products should never be flushed but often are, causing issues for utilities that amount to billions of dollars in maintenance and repair costs -- costs which ultimately pass on to the consumer.
For example, in the United Kingdom, 1.4 billion tampons are estimated to be flushed every year. This contributes to a whopping $122 million annual cost of unblocking sewers - yikes!
And sure - while flushing your tampons down the toilet may seem noble in the sense that you’re keeping them from going into the landfill, as we touched on a little earlier, the solid waste that doesn’t leak out into other waterways gets strained out from the rest of the sewage and sent on a one-way ticket straight to a landfill.
Okay, So What’s The Best Way to Dispose of Tampons?
Great question! The answer is actually very simple… just drop them in the garbage!
A lot of public bathrooms usually have designated bins on their stalls, but if you are not in a public bathroom -- or if there isn’t a designated tampon bin -- simply wrap up your tampon in a little bit of toilet paper and throw it in the trash!
Not a Fan of Tampons (or Waste?) Try These.
Here are a few other more sustainable alternatives to consider:
One of the most popular zero waste solutions for feminine hygiene is menstrual cups. These super-cups are bell-shaped devices made of comfortable and flexible medical-grade silicone. They are inserted into the vagina and used for effectively collecting menstrual fluids.
Depending on the severity of your flow, they should be emptied every four to twelve hours. The content is simply flushed into the toilet, and the cup is rinsed with lukewarm water before being reinserted.
Once your period ends, the cup should be sterilized and properly stored. These revolutionary cups hold more menstrual fluid than your favorite tampon and can last for years with proper care and storage. Other than being environmentally friendly, menstrual cups are also much cheaper than pads and tampons - bonus!
Reusable pads and liners are also excellent alternatives to tampons. They are used just like regular pads, but instead of plastic mixed with some cotton, reusable pads are made of reusable cotton, bamboo, or even hemp. They don’t contain any harmful chemicals and can be easily washed by hand or in the washing machine.
With the help of a small disposable bag, you can get through the day with a few reusable pads. And for the ladies that are concerned with how it may smell, rest assured because changing the reusable pad often enough will nip any unpleasant smells right in the bud.
Reusable pads can last for five or more years with proper care. Considering that you’ll only need about ten of them to get through that time, they are also very cheap in the long run.
This is a great solution for light flows, but period-proof underwear can also serve as a good back up protection for other feminine hygiene products. Period-proof underwear is increasing in popularity because they are usually so comfortable and not to mention, convenient. There are also specialty-made training shorts that can hold two tampons’ worth of menstrual fluid, enabling comfortable training and exercise even during your time-of-the-month.
However, as popular as these super absorbent panties are, some women are still a little skeptical about leaving their periods in the hands of a pair of underwear.
A Final Word
So, can you flush tampons down the toilet?
Yes, you can -- BUT, should you? Absolutely not!
Sanitary products like tampons are carelessly tossed into the toilet every day by the millions. While we don’t really think twice about how we dispose of them, the truth is that we should.
Tampons don’t just clog sewage pipes, causing millions of dollars in repairs, but they are also hurting our planet severely, entering our many different waterways like rivers, streams, and creeks, ultimately ending up in our beautiful ocean.
If you rely on tampons during your time-of-the-month, consider tossing them in the trash rather than flushing them down the toilet. Or better yet, try a tampon-alternative like menstrual cups and reusable pads.
Look for an awesome company like Rael with not only a true passion for providing top-quality feminine hygiene products but also a true passion for making the planet a better place -- one period at a time.