"Menstrual product marketing has long centered on ideas of discretion and odor-suppression, of daintiness and secrecy. Tampons and pads have become necessities of femininity, as women are conditioned from a young age to accept the super-absorbent tampon or pink pad with wings as the best solution for their monthly flows—but there are alternatives. Products like the reusable menstrual cup have physical, environmental and economic benefits, and their popularity is growing.
Because of their absorbent nature, since the 1980s tampons have been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by the build-up of Staphylococcus aureus, leading to the production of the toxin TSST-1. The lesser-known alternative menstrual device is a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups have no such links to TSS, as they do not absorb menstrual fluids so much as catch them, thus decreasing the generation of bacteria.
The environmental impact of tampons and sanitary pads is significant, in terms of both waste and pollution. Waste-wise, the consultants Franklin Associates claim that in 1998 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads and packaging were dumped in landfills or sewage systems, and that was in the U.S. alone. The packaging of tampons and pads is considerable, as each product is wrapped individually, and many tampons include applicators, either cardboard or plastic, that are ultimately unnecessary.