Worrying about the environment? This is what you need to know!
The quick answer – No! Despite this, research conducted by Anglian Water found that over half of women who use tampons flush them down the toilet. In reality, between 1.5 billion and 2 billion sanitary items are flushed down the nation’s toilets each year.
What Happens if You Flush Tampons
First, let’s talk about what happens when you put a tampon into the toilet. If you’re like most people, your first instinct would be to throw the tampon down the toilet and then flush away! There is an argument to suggest that the manufacturers marketing allure to this behaviour, rather than making it very plainly clear that you can not flush them down the toilet.
However, if you do that, then there is a good chance that your pipes could get clogged and nobody wants that (except maybe our plumbers). The sewage treatment system cannot cope with this oh so tempting convenience. Whilst it might see ok to shove them down the toilet bowl, quite the opposite is true.
When you flush tampons, they are likely to get stuck in the plumbing. If this happens, then your toilet will start backing up and it could make quite a mess! The best way to dispose of feminine hygiene products like used tampons is by wrapping them inside several pieces of toilet paper before putting them into the bin.
Flushing tampons can also harm septic systems by adding to increased bacteria levels in the tank. This can lead to problems such as septic failure, which means that your septic system will have to be pumped out and repaired. The maintenance and repair costs of that alone should be enough to put you off!
Tampons in Wastewater Treatment Facilities
Wastewater treatment plants are designed to treat human solid waste and toilet paper only. Some waste treatment facilities may not effectively filter out sanitary items, which can end up in waterways, lakes, and coastal seas. Wastewater facilities are not great at dealing with used tampons, because they are not designed to remove small, solid objects like tampons. Even if a tampon does make it through the treatment process still intact, there is no guarantee that it will go on its merry way to the ocean or landfill site without causing problems along the way. They are extremely costly to deal with if they blow your sewer pipes and if you’ve ever had wastewater overflows you know that they are not the perfect mess free thing they are made out to be.
Tampons in the Sea
Instead, it will most like end up being washed up on a beach, or lucky us, we get to swim with it when we go swimming (you can swim when on your period!). According to the Marine Conservation Society, sewage-related refuse accounts for about 6% of British beach trash. In fact, there is even an entire project dedicated to cleaning up tampons from beaches in Canada. Do we really want our used period care products washed up on beaches?
Plastic Tampon Applicators
Even worse, some UK women flush tampons applicators down the toilet, and it’s not the odd one or two. At a recent beach clean-up in Dartmouth, N.S., volunteers discovered 381 plastic tampon applicators over a 150-metre stretch of beach. Plastic applicators are now one of the biggest pollutants in marine life. We get that it might be convenient when in public bathrooms just to flush and not think, but sanitary products, unless they are reusable need to be dealt with in the proper manor. Do dispose of tampons in the bins in public restrooms and don’t put the tampon in toilet or flush your tampons.
Flushing Tampons Help Cause Fatbergs
Flushing tampons down the toilet along with ‘feminine wipes‘ also leads to fatbergs in the plumbing system. Whilst this does not directly affect you, we all pay for cleaning these up in our water bills. A fatberg is a collection of solid waste that has been flushed down the toilet, but instead of going away into the sewer system, it sticks together and forms a large mass. We have all seen the record breaking fatbergs… the biggest one to date was 440 ft long in Liverpool.
So what is the best tampon disposal approach?
The best way to safely dispose of a used tampon or any disposable period products is to wrap them inside several pieces of toilet paper before putting them into the bin. Such debris will make its way to landfill. Plastic pads are a big issue at landfills but cotton tampons should biodegrade over time.
Unfortunately, tampons and applicators cannot be recycled. Because tampons have been in touch with period blood, which is considered human waste, conventional city or country recycling systems are unable to do so.
So what can you do?
We may live without wet wipes, but high-quality period products is a must.
Firstly you can stop using plastic applicators, opt for biodegradable cardboard tampon applicators if you need to use one.
Secondly look for tampon brands that are using organic cotton and reducing their single-use plastic consumption. Tampons made of biodegradable, 100 per cent cotton are a more environmentally friendly option than traditional ones – but they still cannot be flushed.
Thirdly consider eco-friendly period care products. There are so many reusable options available now like period panties, reusable sanitary pads, menstrual cups and even reusable tampons! All of these will eliminate waste going to landfill and are much better for the environment.
Can you flush tampons down the toilet? NO! Are any tampons flushable? NO! The only safe tampon disposal is to simply wrap it in paper towels and put it in the bin. The better option is to switch to eco-friendly reusable menstrual products.