We need to talk about what we are doing with tampons.

Flushing tampons down the toilet. It’s like our dirty little secret. We’ve all done it. Some of us do it often.

It’s easy, convenient and means you don’t have to confront the full tampon you’ve just removed.

Out of sight, out of mind… until the plumber is called. Then it’s a disaster.

But the problem is bigger than our backyard pipes.

A water company in the UK – Anglian Water – has found half of the women in Britain flush their tampons down the toilet. Their research showed that between 1.5 billion and 2 billion sanitary items are flushed each year. BILLION.

Your period always arrives at the worst time. Post continues below video. 

“Almost 800 tonnes of wipes, tampons and other sanitary items are removed from sewers every week in the Eastern region of the UK,” a statement from the water company says. “For major cities and towns such as Northampton, Norwich, Peterborough and Southend, it equates to as much as 40 tonnes of bathroom waste being wrongly flushed per week – roughly the same weight as 10 adult elephants.”

Yes, 800 tonnes. Every. Week.  10 adult elephants of destructive waste. Every. Week.

The environment is falling a part around us.

This week the NSW town of Forbes has been declared a natural disaster zone after the flooding Lachlan River reached its highest levels in 25 years.

The Great Barrier Reef is dying because the oceans are are, quite literally, absorbing the heat of global warming.

There is increased disease in animal and plant populations across the world, all because we can’t control or reduce the impact we are having on our environment.

The problem feels huge. Global warming seems too big for us to fix, or even try to address, as individuals.


Still, we must do our bit. And most of us do.

We install solar panels. Save household energy (my dad’s voice in my head to “turn the lights off”). Some of us cycle or walk to work, instead of drive. Many of us choose to buy “green” and choose brands that have a minimal and sustainable impact on the environment.

We do all these things, but we still fail at this one simple task?

Why are we flushing our tampons?

The Marine Conservation Society says that debris from sewers is responsible for six per cent of Britain’s beach litter.

Water treatment plants aren’t made to filter out used tampons. So they end up in our rivers, drifting out into our oceans.

Once in the ocean, these items do not disintegrate easily.

No, just like the micro-beads found in face scrubs and some toothpastes, tampons degrade slowly, over many years, to form tiny micro-plastics that float, almost undetected (except from by the organisms that feed on them), throughout the ocean.

Crustaceans and other filter feeders consume these micro-plastics inadvertently. A 2015 study called called “More plastics. Less Oysters? found the breeding capacity of oysters was almost halved following exposure to micro-plastics. Every other level of the food chain was quickly affected as a result.

There are ‘eco’ tampons, or biodegradable options. But even these should not be flushed. The most environmentally friendly way to handle menstruation is through silicone cups and reusable cloth pads.

If you’re not quite that game, the solution is simple: Stop flushing your tampons.

It’s one of the very few things we have control over in helping our environment at an individual level. It’s easy.

It’s time we did our bit.