Our mission is not only to provide safe period products to women everywhere, but also to do it in a way that preserves the environment. Even as a very young company, we’ve already grappled with many dilemmas around the environmental sustainability of our products and processes. One of the most significant to date is what materials to use for our applicators.
As many of your might have read in the LA Times article last week, over 200 pounds of debris washed up on Los Angeles beaches—tampon applicators making headlines as one of the most prevalent items. What does this mean for us as a tampon company? How can we be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem?
Frankly, we have a few options and none of them are ideal. The first option is to only offer applicator-free tampons. However, that requires women to sacrifice the comfort of a gentle applicator and clean hands.
Another alternative is to use a different material for the applicator such as cardboard. That challenge is that women overwhelmingly prefer the experience of using plastic over cardboard and are even willing to pay more money in exchange for that plastic applicator.
So the last option is to find a material that feels like plastic without the environmental impact. Let’s explore this option in greater detail.
The plastic alternative that is touted as the most “eco-friendly” is bioplastic.
Bioplastics are made from natural materials such as cornstarch but look and feel the same as traditional plastic. They require 2/3 less energy to create and produce limited carbon dioxide gas as they biodegrade. Some can biodegrade in only 180 days!
While an incredibly promising material, bioplastic has many downsides as well.
- It limits the shelf life of the product so the packaging could “expire” leading to more waste.
- It does not completely biodegrade or requires additional external processes in order to do so.
- It requires resources that are currently consumed as food (like corn and grain), so increased use of bioplastic could lead to higher food prices and the use of GMOs in order to meet demand.
- It cannot be recycled, so increased use of these bioplastics could disrupt the existing recycling system, causing more harm than good.
As you can see, bioplastic is not a magic bullet.
For now, we are choosing a traditional, non-toxic and BPA-free plastic applicator. Of course, the tampon itself is 100% biodegradable, organic, and hypoallergenic. We will continue to innovate and collaborate with others in the industry until there is a material that is safe for your body, safe for the environment, and does not require you to sacrifice comfort.