Youve seen the signs: The ones in public bathrooms imploring you
But...it's just so convenient to pluck a tampon out, then flush it down the bowl-no extra mess! You don't even have to look at it! And, TBH, is it really that bad to flush your tampondown the toilet? I mean, it is made of cotton after all...isn't that flushable?
So: Can you flush tampons? Well, even tampon brands say no.
Take a quick look at any tampon box and you'll see that exactly none of them tell you to give your used tampon a flush-nor can they be recycled.
Plus, there's this: "Tampons cannot be processed by wastewater-treatment facilities and they can harm septic systems," according to Tampax.
Your best bet, according to most of the brands: Wrapping your used tampon in toilet paper and tossing it in the trash can. Tampax has even made their tampons biodegradable-so, you know, there won't be mountains of tampons in landfills for years to come.
Hold on, what exactly is the problem with flushing tampons down the toilet?
Well, mainly, you’ll mess up the plumbing or septic system of wherever you flush them-and no one wants to deal with a backed-up toilet (especially you, right?).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tampons don’t break down like toilet paper (they're highly absorbent and swell with wetness, after all), so they end up causing clogs, which can then damage the wastewater treatment infrastructure. (Translation: It could mess with clean water sources like streams and rivers.)
While you're at it, keep in mind that the only things that are flushable include whatever comes out of your body (poop and pee, basically) and toilet paper. That's it. "There is a great need for the public to be educated that only the biological aspects of what our bodies eliminate get flushed," says Patricia Cerro-Reehil, executive director of the NY Water Environment Association, Inc. "Everything else goes in the trash."
Flushing tampons is a money issue, too. According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies' "Toilets Are Not Trashcans" campaign, when flushed, products like wipes, paper towels, and, yes, feminine hygiene products "[cause] problems for utilities that amount to billions of dollars in maintenance and repair costs."
Cerro-Reehil adds, "large municipalities across the nation have to spend millions of dollars every year to remove debris that is flushed.” Basically, flushing your tampons is just a lengthy, roundabout, expensive way of throwing them in the trash-they're going to end up in landfills anyway.
So...whats the right way to get rid of a tampon?
There’s a good reason for those little trash cans in most women’s restrooms. Take your tampon, wrap it, then trash it right in there. It’s as simple as that. Do it with the tippy-top of your finger, if you have to (because, let's be honest, that tiny trash can is kinda gross).
If you don't think you can stop flushing those tampons (or, if you want to add even less waste to the environment), you've got a few other options like period panties (Thinx makes some) or a menstrual cup. Both products are reusable so you don’t even have to think twice about saving the planet one trashed tampon at a time.
Either way, you've gotta stop flushing your used tampons down the toilet-if not for your sake, for the sake of those who don't want to deal with an effed-up sewer system or damaged clean water sources in the years to come.