Have you ever thought about how much it costs to buy period products every month?
For many folks who experience periods, purchasing menstrual products can be a barrier to access. Single-use products, while being a source of plastic waste, can also be quite costly in the long term — Canadian menstruators are estimated to spend up to $6,000 on menstrual hygiene products in their reproductive lifetimes. In Northern Indigenous communities, the cost of period products can reach up to $45 a box.
The term period poverty is often used to describe the barriers people face when purchasing period products. But what does the term mean when applied specifically to Canadian menstruators? Let’s break it down.
Defining Period Poverty
Period poverty describes the inability to afford period products and exists at the intersection of other battles including racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and transphobia.
According to a 2018 survey by Plan Canada, 23% of women and 33% of women under age 25 have faced difficulty affording period products for themselves or their dependents. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue as public health centres and libraries, places where people can safely access period products, have closed.
The unexpected cost of period products
Throughout their lifetime, Canadian menstruators are estimated to spend up to $6,000 on menstrual hygiene products. Up until 2015, menstruators were paying GST every time they purchased period products. Single-use period products are not only bad for the environment but can also be an economic barrier for folks who use them long-term.
So what’s the solution?
Menstrual cups can be a cost-effective and sustainable option for folks looking to replace disposable products. Instead of quite literally throwing your money in the garbage each month, a one-time purchase cup can be reused for up to several years with proper care.
One of our favourite companies working to fight period poverty and provide folks with alternative menstrual options is DivaCup. In 2020/2021, DivaCup donated over 15,000 menstrual cups to fight period poverty, diverting 1,855,881 disposable products from landfills.
They also launched DivaRecycles, the first ever free, national menstrual cup recycling program in collaboration with Terracycle in January 2021.
The benefits of using a menstrual cup
To use a menstrual cup, the silicone edges are folded and inserted into the vaginal canal. Once the cup has been positioned just below the cervix, the cup will pop open and suction to the vaginal walls, creating a seal. To remove the cup, all you have to do is break the seal with your finger and pull it out. For an in-depth guide to insertion, removal and care, head to the DivaCup website.
Though there is a slight learning curve to using to a menstrual cup, there are many benefits to making the swap! Firstly, depending on your preferences, a single menstrual cup can save you up to $1000 on disposable products in its 5–10-year lifespan. Additionally, they are safe to use up to 12 hours at a time, which is more than double the amount of time you can wear a disposable product.
Menstrual cups allow you to monitor your flow and get comfortable with your body on a whole new level. Above all, you can divert roughly 400 pounds of disposable plastic products from the landfill by using a menstrual cup throughout your lifetime.
While menstrual cups are a great option for people living in urban areas, it’s important to note that they require access to clean water to use. This means that they may not be a viable option for people living in Indigenous communities without access to clean water, or for transient folks who may not have safe or clean areas to use them.
How you can offer support
To support access to menstrual products in our community, we’re currently taking part in a mutual aid system called The Synergy Project in partnership with H.E.A.R for Them. H.E.A.R. for Them (Hygiene Education And Resources for Them) is a youth-led grassroots organization dedicated to tackling period poverty in Edmonton and Calgary.
The Apothecary is a dedicated drop off zone for donations of pads, tampons, and other menstrual products for The Synergy Project. We are also accepting monetary donations until the end of October. To get involved or check out more of their work head to @hear.for.them on Instagram, or HEAR For Them on Facebook.