Tetrapod Zoology

Why I hate plastic tampon applicators

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Last weekend I and about 40 other people worked together in another effort to rid the shore at Chessel Bay Nature Reserve, Southampton (UK), of rubbish. We didn’t succeed of course – if only that were possible – but, as always, picking up humanity’s discarded crap gives you plenty to think about. Here are various random impressions. For a more data-heavy look at the menace of plastic waste and its substantial effect on environments, wildlife and human health please see the article I wrote on the same subject back in March.

Actually, this time round the rubbish – though still present in great enough quantity – wasn’t as bad as last time and after a couple of hours my mum and I (my mum = Sandra Naish) even managed to produce a small area that at least looked rubbish-free. Well, ‘macro-rubbish’ free: you could spend a week collecting ‘micro-rubbish’ from a square metre of beach and still not make any difference to that square metre. Plastic nurdles and other fragments continue to make up the bulk of the substrate in large patches of the beach, so much so that you can dig up a spade full of substrate [see image below] and not be concerned about removing organic detritus or sediment. Polystyrene fragments are everywhere.

Anyway, overall, I thought that things had improved and that, maybe, just maybe, our efforts really had started to turn the tide. After only several hours of tidying, we had filled up two vehicles with rubbish bags [see pic below]. But we were on the southern half of the beach, the part that is adjacent to woodland. Out of curiosity, I decided to go look at the northern half (adjacent to a residential area). Ah. Tons and tons of rubbish. So much, in fact, that I was able to fill up a whole bin-bag within less than ten minutes. And another. And another.

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Much of the beach macro-litter was ‘street litter’: crisp packets, carrier bags, chocolate bar wrappers, drink bottles, tin cans. The sort of stuff that people throw down in the street. Disposable lighters should be banned, but I suppose they might become less of a problem as more people quit smoking. I gave up counting plastic tampon applicators after picking up the 200th. Given that they are so abundant in beach waste (next time I do a beach litter-pick I’m going to photograph my haul), and given that people aren’t about to stop using them (and, please, I’m not criticising the fact that people choose to use them), I wonder if manufacturers have considered – err, hell-o-o – making them from, you know, biodegradable plastic. Actually, I did a bit of research, and I see that patents have been filed for biodegradable applicators, though I have no idea whether they’re being manufactured. And, much as I’d like to wander round the local shops examining feminine hygiene products, my research on the subject stoped there (does anyone know better? About the biodegradable applicators, not about whether my research on this subject should stop).

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Plastic bags and the Modbury effect

A while ago I read a claim that the plastic carrier bag had become the poor scapegoat of the global anti-litter movement, and that it really wasn’t Public Enemy Number 1 as argued. I have some experience at picking up rubbish, and let me tell you that this claim is what’s technically known as bullshit. Sorry, but plastic bags are ubiquitous in waste, and a bloody nuisance. In a day’s worth of litter-collecting on the beach you can pick up hundreds.

I am pleased to see that people are increasingly aware of Modbury in Devon, a town which – as of May 1st 2007 – became completely plastic bag free, and all thanks to the efforts of a single woman, Rebecca Hosking. After witnessing the plight of Hawaii’s beaches and seabirds in her work as a wildlife film-maker, she became determined to make a difference [see her article here]. Other towns in the UK are, apparently, now seriously thinking of going bag-free too. Southampton, where I live, is a large city of over 228,000 people, and it’s probably not practical or possible for us to even try to organise any city-wide bag-free policy, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t thought about it (I’m on the committee of the city’s natural history society, and while we’re not large I know that we can make a difference, sometimes). The supermarket chain Sainsbury’s no longer has carrier bags available on the checkout, but they’re still available should you want them, and I still see no end of people taking home ten disposable carrier bags every time they go shopping (again, hopefully things will change with time).

This time round I only picked up one plastic yellow duck (last time I found two). Drinking straws are common, as were small straw-like objects made of hard plastic. Not sure what they were: we thought they might be catheters, but catheters are flexible. I found a few condoms (one of which was still in its wrapper) and about four syringes. I also removed three trainers and collected several kilos of broken glass. What interested me about the glass was that all of it was old: very thick, heavily dulled by years of abrasion, and of the sort not used in bottle manufacture anymore (I worked in the drinks industry for a while during 2007 so know a bit about bottle manufacture and glass types). If new glass wasn’t present, does this mean that glass recycling is actually making a difference? By ‘making a difference’ I mean: is it stopping the glass from making its way into the environment?

So what can we do?

As usual, the question that arises at the end is: so what can we do? Beach rubbish seems to originate from several sources. A lot of it is, as mentioned, ‘street rubbish’: the sort of stuff that, on any day, you can see being chucked down onto the street by people who clearly don’t care. I think we should do more to stop people littering by shaming or prosecuting them. I mean, come on, do you really think this sort of behaviour is ok? I kind of think that we’ve covered enough of the planet with our shit already. When I was in Dublin recently I quite liked the anti-litter posters: they said that ‘Litter is disgusting: so are those responsible’. Why aren’t local councils more proactive about this sort of thing? They certainly aren’t here in England. Has anyone considered running ad campaigns showing cute little baby animals that have been strangled or choked to death by plastic waste, or perhaps one somehow highlighting the fact that deformities in babies have been linked to plastic pollution?

Moving on, targeting individuals quite probably won’t get us to the root of the problem, as the impression I get from a lot of the waste is that it comes from another source: I think that much of it ‘escapes’ from rubbish barges and dumps. This would explain why polystyrene, drinking straws, trainers and plastic ducks are so common. This sort of stuff might fall off barges or boats during transport, or it might get blown by the wind from rubbish dumps. This is upsetting, as it means that even waste that you dispose of properly may still end up on a beach or strangling a baby seabird.

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We all therefore need to do what we can to minimise the amount of waste we produce. We should not be producing as much waste as possible in the hope that it’ll work as an effective carbon-sink (as a colleague of mine insists), not – at least – if we want to minimise the amount of litter that ends up in the environment. And if it seems that litter is only ‘cosmetic’ and doesn’t really matter as goes ecology, trophic webs and the lives of animals (including humans), I would remind you of the abundant data showing that diverse animals are now routinely eating plastic and dying as a result. Worse still is that the pollutants contained within plastics (benzene, vinyl chloride, and so on) leach out and have been linked to cancer and reduced fertility in laboratory animals, genital deformity in human babies, stuff like that.

We have a long way to go. There are big problems, and effecting small ones is hard enough. Postal delivery workers here in Southampton have taken to dropping red elastic bands all over the street. Here (in a plastic bag) are the bands I picked up over the past week, just while walking around.

Comments

  1. #1 Tim Morros
    October 17, 2008

    I apologise if I insinuated anything else earlier when I asked my question.

    Was I being stupid, or not?

    Thanks again for listening.

    PS-I’m not creationist

  2. #2 PennyBright
    October 17, 2008

    The last time I check the shelves here in the US (last summer – tampons are only good for swimming, imho, and I don’t swim that often) you couldn’t get a bio-degradable plastic applicator, though you could find applicator free and paperboard applicators. None of them were trying to sell their biodegradability as a benefit.

  3. #3 Julie Stahlhut
    October 17, 2008

    I will never understand the idea behind plastic tampon applicators. The cardboard ones and the applicator-less ones are both much more comfortable to use. I’ve always assumed that the plastic ones were the detritus of hard-sell marketing — the feminine hygiene equivalent of turning depleted uranium into projectiles.

  4. #4 Alan Kellogg
    October 17, 2008

    Read a novel once with a scene set 50 million years in the future. One of the things the character (a lady) ran across was a seam of asphaltite, a metamorphic rock based on asphalt. I’m wondering what one would get after 50 million years of heat and pressure on a bed of plastic.

    I’ve also wondered about the effect on technology and society were a fast-acting plastic eating bacterium to evolve. Say, you’re waiting for the train for your daily commute, and all off a sudden polyester clothing starts to disintegrate.

  5. #5 Anon
    October 17, 2008

    Our University once used processed sludge to treat wood chips for composting. They swore they did not use human waste sludge, though. Problem was, wherever they spread the treated wood chips, you would see two things–plastic tampon applicators and tomato plants. Guess what kind of seeds are really good at surviving a trip through a human gut and a sewage treatment plant…

  6. #6 ringo
    October 18, 2008

    The straw-like things are juice-box straws. Banned at zoos in the US because they’re so very good at choking wildlife.

    San Francisco has a plastic bag ban. Hasn’t been long enough to see if it will make a difference.

  7. #7 Hai~Ren
    October 18, 2008

    Well said.

  8. #8 Esteleth
    October 18, 2008

    Julie Stahlhut says:
    I will never understand the idea behind plastic tampon applicators. The cardboard ones and the applicator-less ones are both much more comfortable to use. I’ve always assumed that the plastic ones were the detritus of hard-sell marketing — the feminine hygiene equivalent of turning depleted uranium into projectiles.
    I am the complete opposite of you. I suppose this is something that goes down to personality. I am conscious of the environmental effects of plastic production (and of how readily applicators blow off dumps), but paperboard applicators CHAFE like hell and I never can get the applicator-free ones to fit right. So, I use the plastic ones. I really wish they offered a biodegradable plastic one, as I would buy that in an instant! I have not seen them where I live (in the US).

  9. #9 Debi Linton
    October 18, 2008

    This is just one of the many reasons I don’t use disposable ‘feminine’ products: cost being the biggest. Tampons and towels are just so expensive every month and disgustingly wasteful.

    My mooncup was the best 20 I ever bought. Cheaper, safer, more environmentally sound and requires less attention than a tampon. I really wish more women were using them.

  10. #10 Neil
    October 18, 2008

    I had the pleasure of walking on this beach -

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2034045.ece

    - with Roberto Regnoli (and his MASSIVE dog, Dago). We’d gone to see the bottled messages, but the range of detritus was frightening.. from tiny fragments of ground-up plastic to forty foot coils of thick rope. An inch or two under much of the sand was a layer of oil.

    I admire your (and your mother’s) work.

  11. #11 DDeden
    October 18, 2008

    Kelp paddies, seashores, mangroves, coral reefs are detritus/nutrient collectors. It’s the tiny/invisible stuff that worries me in the long run, more than the larger plastics. But, well, we’re part of the ecosystem too. Nobody complains about fish feces or snake molts or shed antlers, how much different is human waste? (Didn’t mean to sound negative, I admire your effort). I just dislike the idea of mollusks fortified with viagra or PCBs in the food chain.

  12. #12 Neil
    October 18, 2008

    “I just dislike the idea of mollusks fortified with viagra”

    Worse still, a barnacle with viagra could have your eye out…

  13. #13 Tengu
    October 18, 2008

    I gave up having periods long ago, nasty unneedful things.

    If all women were like me think what a better world it would be.

    I very seldom get to a beach but I take good note of what I may find. In the severn channel I saw a lot of wood, straw, and plastic bottles, but interestingly little else.

    Waste is a problem and the sellers do very little to pack less, or make it easier to recycle or reuse.

    I find Ebay sales useful for getting rid of things like carriers, toilet rolls and paper….obviously that is only passing the buck.

    I only as a rule produce one carrier of rubbish a week, and when I get the wood stove fitted, that will lessen even more.

    I have a compost bin which is very good, particularly in the garden.

    Our posties drop a lot of bands too. Fine if you need them, but I use very little.

  14. #14 I don't even try to be helpful anymore.
    October 19, 2008

    I guess since I’m male, this is yet another conversation where no one’s wanting to hear my views on paper vs. cardboard…

  15. #15 I don't even try to be helpful anymore.
    October 19, 2008

    Oh the shame. I mean “plastic vs cardboard”. But, y’know, I plead maleness, and we’re supposed to make mistakes like that. ‘Cause it would even be more disturbing if I actually knew something about it.

  16. #16 Rosel
    October 19, 2008

    I agree with Debi.
    I read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine (of all places) showing how much waste the Sanpro industry creates. There are a few alternatives like washable pads, moon-cups and reuseable tampons.

  17. #17 Darren Naish
    October 19, 2008

    I guess since I’m male, this is yet another conversation where no one’s wanting to hear my views on [plastic] vs. cardboard…

    Plastic is definitely superior to cardboard for the job in hand. Cardboard applicators become soggy, and are overall less comfortable and less easy to insert. Like I said, I can understand why the plastic ones are preferred. Women aren’t about to stop using them. So why haven’t bio-degradable alternatives been developed?

  18. #18 Tanya
    October 19, 2008

    Uh…soggy? No, no they don’t. It takes about two seconds to insert a tampon, and the applicator doesn’t stay…there…it is immediately removed and tossed. Plastic was always a problem for me because the edges were sharp and pokey. Anyway its been years since I used anything but my DIVA cup. Unimaginably more convenient, comfortable, and inexpensive.

    It is an effort to buy products (not just fem-hygiene)that aren’t excessively packaged, but I try.

  19. #19 Barn Owl
    October 19, 2008

    What about disposable diapers (nappies)? They must account for a large proportion of our trash, and I can only think of a few people I know who use washable cloth diapers for their babies and small children, even with the availability of diaper services (one local company is called “Debbie Does Diapers”). Very few of the disposable diaper brands are biodegradable, and I have my doubts about the ones that tout themselves as such. If the used diapers end up inside a plastic bag, or at the bottom of a lake or river, they’re unlikely to biodegrade. Here’s an article about the debate over disposable vs. cloth diapers.

    We in the developed world might want to rethink our constant need for hydration via single-use water, soda, and juice bottles. Whatever happened to drinking out of the water fountain at work, or using a mug for coffee and tea, or sending your kid to school with a Thermos of milk or juice?

  20. #20 Renee
    October 19, 2008

    I seriously do not understand the applicator. I think it’s mostly intended for women who don’t want to touch their genitals. Why else would you need them?

  21. #21 Graham King
    October 19, 2008

    Darren, great article: worthwhile, and very interesting too. As are the comments arising! Good for you, for getting involved (again) so hands-on.

    Here, Friends of the Earth Fife local group are working to make Kinghorn and Burntisland carrier-bag-free (these are two adjacent Scottish coastal towns, near Kirkcaldy).

    It is encouraging to read your article.

    thanks!

  22. #22 Rose
    October 20, 2008

    Thank you, Darren, both for your help at the litter pick and this excellent article.

    I must admit that for a long time I despaired of clearing the huge mound of trash at Chessel Bay(and of course elsewhere), but I’m beginning to feel more hopeful. Not that it isn’t a hell of a challenge. The human love affair with plastic is something we’ve got to get under control – somehow.

    Tet zoo readers – if there’s a litter pick near you – go and help. It all makes a difference. Plus, it’s a huge boost to the moral of people already involved.

    Thanks again.

  23. #23 Sandra Naish
    October 20, 2008

    Good on you, Darren, for spreading the word about what can be done to make a slight or any difference to the area in which one lives. My own mother put very little in her dustbin by composting, kept the homes fires burning waste including paper towels (female type) or cardboard tampon applicators and purchased or grew fresh vegetable produce, but plastic packaging was not so involved then.

    I was brought up to dispose of all litter properly and have instructed my children accordingly, who do pass this on. It is manufacturers and supermarkets who have taught us generally that disposal is to throw cheap plastic packaging/oddments away, while regretfully most items are still not recyclable in this country, that is presuming people could be bothered. Most can’t.

    Yesterday, post-litter pick, I walked to Chessel Bay with a grandson. He loved our game of collecting cans (carefully)as we fed swans and ducks but, sadly, youths cycled past throwing more booze cans down with glee. As he grows older he is likely to fall under their influence as well as mine, more’s the pity. We should certainly show school children some consequences on nature of their lack of thought.

    On a plus point, I have just read that our local Council will now accept plastic bottle tops for recycling if you take them to selected places. Less for the beach? One can only hope so – or the whole place will end up looking like Cairo, where I was astonished and disgusted to see decades of accumulated filth in the city. Worldwide, we all have to make more of an effort.

  24. #24 Barn Owl
    October 20, 2008

    My own mother put very little in her dustbin by composting, kept the homes fires burning waste including paper towels (female type) or cardboard tampon applicators and purchased or grew fresh vegetable produce, but plastic packaging was not so involved then.

    I got serious about composting recently, with the purchase of a recycled plastic bin for that purpose (necessary because there are a lot of skunks, raccoons, ringtails, and opossums in my suburban neighborhood). I’ve been amazed by the size of the dent that composting puts in my household trash output. With curbside recycling available for plastics, glass, aluminum, and cardboard, I don’t have to put out the garbage very often.

    I try to avoid shrink-wrapped and otherwise plastic-packaged fresh produce. I’ve seen sliced melon, citrus, apples, carrots, and celery sold in small plastic cups with shrink-wrap tops … great that people are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, but how much trouble is it to peel an orange, eat an apple out of hand, or cut up a few celery sticks and put them in a baggie or tub that can be washed and re-used? I could perhaps understand a time-stressed parent using such shortcuts for a child’s lunch, but many of the people I see eating the pre-sliced apples are adults who don’t have school-age kids.

  25. #25 Mantelli
    October 20, 2008

    The most ubiquitous items I’ve found when picking up trash beside a highway are cigarette butts. Apparently people love to empty their entire ashtrays out the windows in addition to flinging their cigarettes out after they’re done smoking. The filters don’t degrade worth a damn. People also seem to lose paper money quite regularly. In several years of cleaning up a stretch of highway, a cleanup day seldom went by without our finding at least a dollar’s worth of currency.

  26. #26 Chris Davis
    October 20, 2008

    One helpful change would be to stop the entire subject of menstruation being so – as Clive James puts it – ‘fraught with voodoo overtones’. If it happened to us XY types, so-called ‘sanpro’ devices would be no more political than band-aids – and would be used and discarded just as casually, and less surreptitiously.

    My suggestion would be to remove all the weighty references to ‘hygiene’ and ‘sanitary’ – it sounds like mopping up anthrax.

    CD

  27. #27 seabold
    October 20, 2008

    Same thing here. I think people most people who have some level of intelligence try to be more green…but the ones who don’t seem to move around quite a bit and make up the difference. I live in the downtown area of my city and I get the constant pleasure of having to sweep bags, cups, cans and other garbage from my sidewalk, or even better, when I have to remove half eaten chinese take-away dinners from my front porch steps. I use a thermos or other reusable cups, we package our lunches in reusable containers, we recycle almost everything in our house and really only produce a bag of trash each week. The other small bag is mainly cat litter, and if anyone has any suggestions on reducing that I’d be interested. It’s become a sort of game to see how much we can reuse or re-purpose.

    It truly is a shame when you see people who honestly give NO thought to the state of the world, and even worse when you see them becoming an example for their children.

  28. #28 Eamon Knight
    October 20, 2008

    By coincidence (I’m not even a regular reader here), I am reading Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, and just read the chapter on plastic waste. I knew about the oceanic garbage fields and so on — but not about the micro-trash like nurdles (Hey, what are the chances of running across the same new word twice in one week?) Apparently, even using “bio-degradable” plastic bags doesn’t get you off the hook — they just break down to tiny fragments, which can still harm filter feeders and plankton. It will be a while before bacteria figure out how to eat that stuff efficiently (though I predict it will happen — that good an energy source cannot go neglected forever).

  29. #29 Cath the Canberra Cook
    October 20, 2008

    I used to think that applicators were just for the “ladies” who were creeped out by touching their own genitals, but I have learned better. A women friend with arthritis (yes, you can get arthritis when you’re young) finds them very useful. Cardboard is the go, though. Plastic? srsly?

  30. #30 David Harmon
    October 20, 2008

    Alan Kellogg:

    Read a novel once with a scene set 50 million years in the future. One of the things the character (a lady) ran across was a seam of asphaltite, a metamorphic rock based on asphalt. I’m wondering what one would get after 50 million years of heat and pressure on a bed of plastic.

    By guess is a seam of density-layered plastic, unless the hydrogen can seep away through the rock, in which case it becomes dirty coal.

    I’ve also wondered about the effect on technology and society were a fast-acting plastic eating bacterium to evolve. Say, you’re waiting for the train for your daily commute, and all off a sudden polyester clothing starts to disintegrate.

    Already written, as Mutant 59: The Plastic-Eaters, by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis (Bantam Books, 1973). There’s a newer novel of the same title and theme, but when the jacket blurb “failed physics forever,” I didn’t bother to read further.

  31. #31 David Harmon
    October 20, 2008

    PS: In practice, I suspect that a realistic “plastic eater” wouldn’t be nearly so catastrophic — even with the new energy source, it would be under thermodynamic and other constraints similar to any other bacterium. Also, they’d probably need both oxygen and water — classic limiting factors!
    So instead of clothes disintegrating off people in the street, you’d get something like mildew damage in the closet, and “corrosion” on solid plastic objects, both aggravated by exposure and moisture.

    Then too, the initial versions of a “plastic-eater” would likely have a limited range of diet, so they’d only affect certain compositions. Perhaps some chemist could tell us which are more “vulnerable” to possible new enzymes?

  32. #32 Richard Simons
    October 20, 2008

    The other small bag is mainly cat litter, and if anyone has any suggestions on reducing that I’d be interested.

    I understand (we don’t have a cat) that you can get cat litter made of recycled newspapers that can go in the compost.

  33. #33 khan
    October 20, 2008

    Plastic is definitely superior to cardboard for the job in hand. Cardboard applicators become soggy, and are overall less comfortable and less easy to insert. Like I said, I can understand why the plastic ones are preferred. Women aren’t about to stop using them. So why haven’t bio-degradable alternatives been developed?

    Posted by: Darren Naish | October 19, 2008 5:51 AM

    Why the heck does anyone need an applicator at all? Is something horrible going to happen if your hands touch your crotch?

  34. #34 khan
    October 20, 2008

    The other small bag is mainly cat litter, and if anyone has any suggestions on reducing that I’d be interested.
    ———————————————
    I understand (we don’t have a cat) that you can get cat litter made of recycled newspapers that can go in the compost.

    I’ve been composting cat box stuff for years.

  35. #35 David Marjanovi?
    October 20, 2008

    France seems to be going plastic-bag-free right now, one supermarket chain after another.

    I didn’t know applicators existed. Neither my mother nor my two sisters seem to use or possess such a thing, and they don’t make great secrets out of their tampons.

    I apologise if I insinuated anything else earlier when I asked my question.

    Was I being stupid, or not?

    Where, when? ~:-|

  36. #36 Nomen Nescio
    October 21, 2008

    Disposable lighters should be banned

    the only real problem with refillable lighters is you’re always forgetting to refill the things. and they cost a bit more up front, of course.

    (no, i don’t smoke, but a way to light a fire is one of the things i always carry with me as a matter of principle. a flashlight and a knife are the other two; the flashlight sees the most real use, followed closely by the knife. my Zippo always seems to have gone dry when i really need it — their fuel evaporates in about a week. i should probably try a refillable butane lighter.)

  37. #37 Michael Haluska
    October 21, 2008

    “Drinking straws are common, as were small straw-like objects made of hard plastic. Not sure what they were: we thought they might be catheters, but catheters are flexible.”

    Darren, these are likely coffee stirrers. Very common here in the USA.

    I’ve volunteered for beach and stream clean-ups here and I believe that leadership from the top in eliminating the source is crucial… as after-the-fact ‘clean-up’ measures are sadly of little impact (Though they are important and appreciated by the animals whose lives are saved!).

  38. #38 The Nerd
    October 21, 2008

    For a while I was using biodegradable pads, but the plastic on them was (understandably) thick, and it scratched at me so much that I gave up after a few months. I work full time, and I don’t have the stomach to carry used washable pads around with me. Luckily, a side effect of my birth control is that it reduces the number of pads I use a month, although that means I’m passing hormones into the water system. There seems to be no real way to win, sometimes!

    I would love to have this very dillema looked into further, if you would ever decide to pursue it.

  39. #39 windy
    October 21, 2008

    Why the heck does anyone need an applicator at all?

    Inserting a smooth and hard thing in the vagina generally feels more comfortable than a fibrous and soft thing.

  40. #40 memyrald
    October 22, 2008

    windy is right–and I prefer plastic for the same reason.

  41. #41 Seabold
    October 22, 2008

    Thanks, I’ve actually given some thought to the composting aspect, but unfortunately I live in-town and composting is considered “a health and fire hazard” and is illegal. I know, a properly maintained composter isn’t either of those, but we are being punished for the minority that act like fools. I tried placing the cat litter (the scoopable kind) in paper grocery bags (biodegradable, right?), but our trash haulers won’t take items not in a PLASTIC bag. I found this out after coming out the next morning to discover the brown paper bags sitting in my driveway…while raining. Big mess. *bangs head against wall*

  42. #42 PennyBright
    October 23, 2008

    Applicators are useful for folks who have mobility and medical issues, and for those with anatomy issues such as retroflexed uteruses (uteri?). Plastic applicators are way more comfortable then the cardboard kind. It’s smooth and rounded vs angular and rough across sensitive membranes. Both are a bit easier to use then applicatorless tampons, just because of friction/absorption issues.

    Sogginess is not an issue – or shouldn’t be.

    I favor a good old-fashioned washable cotton cloth, myself.

  43. #43 manda
    December 8, 2008

    personally i find it difficult to get a tampon far enough in without an applicator, but then i have shorter than average fingers. also inserting an applicator-less tampon tends to dry out the vagina in passing, which i assure you is very painful.

    anyways, the point is, applicator good, but plastic bad.

  44. #44 Matt
    May 20, 2009

    Apparently, according to the Procter and Gamble website, Tampax have biodegradable applicators. I suppose the question is how long does it take to degrade?

  45. #45 Erin
    July 26, 2009

    I got some little OB tampons without applicators, and they get stuck trying to go in. They are also all individually wrapped in plastic (ugh!), so there’s not point. I got some other ones that are cardboard applicator, and they too get stuck going in, but not as bad. Plastic are the most comfortable, but I don’t want to buy them. I hope to get a hysterectomy soon, or maybe just a Diva Cup (I hate that name).

    ps I’ve always wished we could just reroute our cervix (or wherever it oozes from) to our bladder, so we could control the flow and just pee it out. Gross huh? So convenient though.

  46. #46 Caroline
    August 12, 2009

    RE: Apparently, according to the Procter and Gamble website, Tampax have biodegradable applicators. I suppose the question is how long does it take to degrade?

    I think this refers to the cardboard applicators only, not the plastic. As far as I’ve been able to find out no biodegradable plastic is being used, and I’m pretty sure as soon as it is they’d let us all know (marketing)!
    To be honest, there’s not much point debating the issue as it is purely one of preference and given the sales of applicator tampons people aren’t gonna stop using them, but I think people would go for the biodegradable ones if they were manufactured and available.

    Oh, and if we could re-route to our bladder we’d have serious pregnancy complications!!! ew..

    Great site though Darren, keep up the good work!!

  47. #47 Lisa Bush
    August 20, 2010

    Environmental Plastics Solutions Conference

    We welcome you to attend presentations on the most recent innovations and solutions in the biodegradable plastics market. Topics will include: plastics sustainability, biodegredation testing, recent legislation, and more! The conference is September 20 & 21, 2010.

    Register here: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e2z3jhdkf2007923

  48. #48 polythenepam
    April 11, 2011

    That kind of rubbish is why I started my dirty protest. I boycott plastic throw away products, source biodegradable alternatives and write about it in my blog. Good on you for doing a great thing and blogging about xxpam