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September-October 2009

Is the DivaCup reusable menstrual cup as green as it claims?

Jenn Hardy

Are reusable menstrual cups really better for the environment than tampons and pads?

Are reusable menstrual cups really better for the environment than tampons and pads?

The Claim

DivaCup is a reusable, silicone menstrual cup that claims to be an “environmentally responsible” product that is the “most clean and convenient method of feminine hygiene protection.” But how green can the manmade silicone product be?

The Investigation

DivaCup, like other brands of reusable menstrual cups, works by collecting menstrual flow in a small, internally placed cup. This cup is emptied and washed out throughout a woman’s cycle, then sterilized by boiling and put away for next month. According to the makers of DivaCup, which is the only Health Canada approved reusable menstrual cup, one cup will last a woman an entire year (and some users say a cup can be used for much longer), and that, they argue, is one reason why this product is so environmentally friendly.

The company’s clearly onto something. Each year, 12 billion conventional pads and 7 million tampons, made out of plastics, rayon, viscose, and cotton, are dumped into the North American environment. These products have been bleached with chlorine, which releases carcinogenic dioxins into the environment, and most use non-organic cotton, which has been saturated in pesticides and insecticides. Cotton is also considered to be the world’s “thirstiest crop,” requiring six pints of water to grow just one little bud.

While DivaCup is made from silicone, the same synthetic substance found in everything from cosmetics to cars, silicone looks pretty green compared to what goes into conventional menstrual products.

Dr. Michael Brook, a silicone expert at McMaster University, says that because silicone is derived from silica, a type of sand, it will slowly degrade back to that material. “The safety record of silicones is exemplary, and unlike many materials used in commerce, there is a lot of data available to permit such a statement to be made.”

The Verdict:

There’s no “greenwashing” going on here; DivaCup lives up to its claims and truly is a green alternative to conventional feminine hygiene products. While there might be an initial yuck factor, for most women, a reusable menstrual cup is an environmentally and economically healthy choice when dealing with their once-a-month friend.

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