Meet the Mooncup

Non-applicator tamponAre you wondering what a Mooncup has to do with beachcombing?

If you’ve never seen one before, a Mooncup is a brand of menstrual cup that can be used to collect blood inside the body during menstruation.

While menstrual cups may make some people recoil in disgust, they’re actually a great alternative to tampons and pads. Made from medical-grade silicone, they’re reusable and can last for years.

When the average menstruating woman* is estimated to use around 10,000 tampons during her lifetime, these cups are a more environmentally-friendly option than most other forms of sanitary protection.

tampon
Many tampons and applicators end up on beaches across the world

So why am I talking about menstrual cups? Well, if you’ve ever walked along a beach after rough weather, you might know why. Used tampon applicators are a common sight on beaches in the UK and across the world.

The Mooncup website refers to a beach clean in 2013 when Ocean Conservancy volunteers collected 27,938 used tampons and applicators from across the world on one day. One single day!

Of course, tampon applicators are not the only rubbish left behind when the tide is out. A drift line can tell many stories. Of fishermen out at sea, popular snacks from the other side of the Channel, and children’s visits to the seaside.

beach rubbish
Items found in a drift line – can you spot any tampon applicators?

One evening last summer I watched a woman throw her coat (best described as a winter cloak) into the sea in a bizarre and, quite frankly, infuriating, offering.

The image of it floating away like a strange, black shadow has stayed with me and serves to remind me of the array of things that can end up in our seas.

Ocean Conservancy’s 2017 International Coastal Cleanup Report lists a Christmas tree, wizard hat and piano as some of its weirdest cleanup finds!

Unsurprisingly, the most common items were made from plastic (straws, stirrers, shopping bags, lids, micro-plastics), glass (bottles or small fragments) or contained some form of foam (cigarette butts and takeaway trays).

plastic beach.jpg
Thankfully, this isn’t a common sight on UK beaches

Our modern fixation with cleanliness and convenience means that we can have much to discard, and our ‘clean’ living doesn’t always to extend to our seas.

Thinking about just one room in the home (the bathroom), we might flush away…

tampons
condoms
baby wipes
cotton buds
medicine
bleach and other harsh cleaning products
products with microbeads
floss

… all of which can end up in our seas.

But our actions can make a difference. By being mindful about our actions, checking labels for harsh chemicals or plastics, doing things differently or simply finding alternatives. However small and insignificant our actions may feel, the choices we make can have a positive impact on our oceans and its wildlife.

Ring of footprints in the sand

Can you think of any other items to add to my list?

And are there any small changes that you could make to your lifestyle?

I’ll start the discussion ­– writing this post has made me determined to use more ecological (and cruelty-free) cleaning products.

* I’ve chosen to use female pronouns in relation to menstruation, but I’m aware that not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are cis women.

Links of interest

10 Things You’re Not Doing (And Should Be) to Help the Ocean – tips from Huffpost

Dirty Beach’s Tru-Cost Con-venience store – travelling ‘shop’ art exhibition with items collected from local beaches (last in Brighton in 2013)

The Outer Shores – all about wrack lines!

Precious Stars – buy reusable cloth pads (she also has a great YouTube channel!)

Beach Plastic Jewelry – plastic fantastic art

 

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