Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Water & Sanitation

Americans Use 7 Billion Plastic Tampon Applicators Every Year. This Product Is Changing That

For years, Celia Pool and Alec Mills ran a successful business distributing period products, like pads and tampons, to women in the United Kingdom.

They soon realized, however, that even though their business was good for girls and women, it wasn’t good for the environment. That’s because every plastic tampon applicator that kerplunks into the wastebasket is destined for the landfill and, often, the ocean.

And the world uses a lot of plastic tampon applicators — almost 7 billion in the US alone each year.

“The more we sold, the more we realized there were major problems with the industry,” co-founder Alec Mills told Global Citizen. “So we set out to improve three things: reducing waste and plastic, improving the quality of tampons, [getting rid of] negative language.”

Take Action: #ItsBloodyTime to End the Taboo Around Menstruation

So Mills and Pool decided to develop a new product that would help women and reduce plastic waste at the same time. After several phases of research and development, including 30 different prototypes, the pair designed D., a sleek and reusable plastic tampon applicator.

On Tuesday, their company Dame launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the product. After three days, they are halfway to their goal of raising $27,500.

D. is designed for women who want to practice more sustainable behaviors but prefer to use tampons instead of reusable menstrual cups, Mills said.

“Women have no choice about having a period, but they should have choice about what products they use and if they align with their values,” Mills said. “Providing a sustainable option that matches the current products in terms of ease and performance was very important.”

Read More: 12 Pads Per Month? Arizona Legislature Will Vote on Restrictive Menstruation Rules

So far, women have responded with enthusiasm, Mills said.

“There’s been a lot of ‘I can’t believe this doesn’t already exist’ and ‘this is what I need,’” he said.

For the past three years, Dame has provided free period products to homeless service organizations as part of the company’s focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, Empowering Women and Girls, Mills said.

To help accomplish the goal, Dame and activists around the world work to overcome period stigma, which even pervades period product packaging.

“If a teenager sees ‘24-hour discreet protection’ on her tampon box, she’s going to think there’s something to hide,” Mills said. “These micro-messages add to the illusion that periods are negative.”

Read More: Women on Their Periods Are Being 'Left to Bleed in Cells' by Police

Various cultures have labeled periods as unclean — or even toxic — and exploited these taboos to oppress or isolate women. Worldwide, an estimated 300 million girls and women lack access to safe and sanitary menstrual health products like pads and tampons and many girls miss school during their periods.

Global Citizen campaigns on ending period taboos and ensuring all women have access to safe period products. You can take action here.

Mills said men have also eagerly embraced the concept, which motivated Dame to include a special “Be a Badass and Support Women” reward for men who purchase the applicator.

The reception to D., which women must handwash—often in public restrooms—after use, has demonstrated just how much menstruation taboos have eroded, he said.

“Luckily as the culture around periods changes, women will become more confident using it,” Mills said. “So what could be a challenge is potentially more of a milestone.”