Since the beginning of 2021, as reported by the Financial Times, the Mexican capital has decided to ban the sale of menstrual products until its plastic applicators are replaced by more environmentally friendly materials. This daring decision is a fundamental part of Claudia Sheinbaum’s green agenda, Mexico City’s first mayor and climate change scientist, whose green policies have been a priority since she took office two years ago. What many publications forgot to mention, however, is that the decision had already been announced back in 2019.
First came the plastic shopping bags, then straws and disposable cups. Now, the last polluting products to disappear, thanks to Mexico City’s anti-plastic campaign, are tampons. But the capital seems to have overlooked one thing: being the one taking the blame when it was actually up to the country’s leading period products companies to offer enough eco-sustainable alternatives for Mexican women.
Although many women’s rights activists have been fighting for years to get rid of the tax on menstrual products, it’s hard for them to understand the importance of the environmental approach when not being offered enough alternatives. With good reason, many are now left wondering whether the government should have taken a different approach and a more gradual one before imposing the current ban. However, as stated above, the Mexican government did warn companies (and citizens) of the upcoming changes.
Talking about the news, Anahí Rodríguez, spokeswoman for the NGO Menstruación Digna (Dignified Menstruation) said, “It’s the government’s responsibility to take steps to protect the environment. But they should have made sure there were tampons available with applicators that used an alternative to plastic, at an accessible price, before they withdrew them.”
“This is punishing women,” said student Chiara Gómez to the Irish Times. “I didn’t know they were going to do this—a lot of people depend on them. And it’s a bit strange that they are starting with tampons when there are other things that use a lot of plastic, like unnecessary packaging.”
While a few stands in the city now urge customers to bring their own containers or buy plastic bottles, many markets still use plastic bags or serve food with plastic forks with coffee shops often placing plastic lids on takeaway beverages.
This week, pharmacies and supermarkets displayed sanitary towels and menstrual cups, but not enough eco-sustainable tampons for everyone. Applicator-less tampons are not generally available or used, as Mexican citizen @yansomade told Screen Shot, “tampons without applicators are rare in Mexico because culturally, we are not used to them. They exist, but they are not popular.”
Although many publications reported that tampons could now only be purchased online, via sites such as Mercado Libre and Amazon, and with prices as high as $3.40 (£2.45) per tampon, @yansomade explained that brands specialising in period products such as Saba and Kotex had actually been warned about the new policy back in 2019—and so had the rest of the country. However, both Saba and Kotex decided to ignore the warning and continue to sell tampons with plastic applicators.
As a result, what was left of those brands in the capital flew off the shelf, and soon enough, people started looking everywhere for Tampax tampons, which have a recyclable applicator made of cardbox.
One chemist in the capital laid out the official ruling to explain why tampons had vanished from shelves: “We’re not allowed to display tampons,” before quietly offering to sell some under-the-counter “while stocks last.”
Men also criticised the move. “As if women didn’t have enough problems, now the government has given them another: no tampons,” Carlos Elizondo, a political-science professor at Tec de Monterrey university, wrote on Twitter. “In other countries, they have zero VAT. Here, they are banned—and in the middle of a pandemic too.”
Meanwhile, Lillian Guigue, director-general for impact regulation and environmental regulation at the city’s environment ministry, insisted the ban had been announced long in advance, adding she had been negotiating with producers, but COVID-19 was slowing down their ability to reformulate applicators without using plastic. Until then, “we all have to do our bit … if we don’t make an effort with the products we consume, we are destroying not only our future but that of all generations after us.”
For many, especially young women, that means reusable menstrual cups. But in a country where the coronavirus pandemic has pushed an estimated 10 million more people into poverty, some cannot afford them and in any case, 260,000 homes in Mexico City lack running water. Dignified menstruation “becomes a privilege, not a right, with these measures”, said Rodríguez.
Her NGO has been fighting to have Mexico’s 16 per cent sales tax waived from sanitary protection—a move backed by Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s interior minister. Legislators refused last year, but the supreme court this month agreed to review whether the tax was unconstitutional.
In the meantime, the Mexican government urged women to “rally behind the cause” for the sake of the planet. “It’s not about stopping having the products we need,” said Guigue. “It’s about making better choices.” The obvious way in which the news about this anti-plastic ban has been shifted to put the blame on the Mexican government instead of on the country’s leading period product brands highlights the problems the media still face: impartiality and researched reporting. Mexico City’s anti-plastic ban should be praised, not put down. Instead, brands like Saba and Kotex should be criticised. After all, they just chose not to listen, at the expense of Mexican women.
Scrolling through Goop, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the coconut flavoured floss that’s supposed to transform your daily dental experience. The same applies to turmeric lattes, mushroom matcha coffee, and a stone diffuser for your crystals. It’s fair to say I’m somewhat of a sceptic to the majority of what wellness offers and to whom. Yet with organic and sustainable menstrual cups, ‘period pants’ that soak up 8 hours of blood, the wellness industry has moved to our nether regions and is finally trying to make our monthly bodily trials a fair bit easier.
Meet Daye, a female-owned and led sustainable CBD-infused and 100 percent cotton tampon company that is in sync with your cycle and delivers to your letterbox. It sounds like the epitome of millennial convenience, with a pro-feminine lens on what women and non-binary people need. Screen Shot spoke with Valentina Milanova, the founder of Daye, about what inclusivity, CBD and wellness should look like for the majority.
“Daye started when I got my first period, at nine years old. No one had sat me down and explained what the menstrual cycle was, so when I started bleeding I thought I had a rare and shameful disease”, recalls Milanova. After hiding it for a year until she was taken to the emergency room by her father, who suspected something was wrong, her early experience of shame cemented her interest in calling to dismantle the taboos surrounding female health.
Reading research papers and anything she could get her hands on, Milanova discovered industrial hemp and in her words, “had a Eureka moment”. The fibres of the hemp plant are more absorbent than traditional cotton tampons, plus the extract from the flower are pain-relieving and thus help women who suffer from painful menstrual cramps.
Launching with two products—naked tampons and ultra-soothing CBD-infused tampons—the main question on everyone’s mind is: do they really work? Or is it no different than popping into Boots for a pack of Tampax and Paracetamol? “All our tampons are made from sustainably-sourced cotton fibres that are batch tested for cleanliness and pesticides”, explains Milanova. Keen on making sure there is no bacterial residue (seeing as tampons are not considered medical devices the regulation of feminine hygiene products are lax), Daye ran a microbiological analysis on various mainstream and organic tampons and found them bacterially contaminated. Tampon manufacturers aren’t even legally obliged to disclose the ingredients of their product.
Daye tampons also use a cotton protective sleeve that covers the whole tampon and prevents fibre loss so there is a smaller chance of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and Toxic Shock Syndrom (TSS) happening. Yet when it comes to any CBD-infused wellness products, many medical experts have rejected the use of CBD as its thought that only a high dosage of the ingredient is needed to have any kind of a palpable effect.
Daye’s CBD infused tampons have 150mg of 30 percent concentration of CBD, with the THC extracted. “Since they’re administered vaginally they have a much higher bioavailability than if the compound were administered orally”, explains Milanova. “If you were to ingest CBD, the compound would have to go through your digestive tract and be metabolised before reaching your bloodstream, so your gut and liver take a huge chunk”.
When asking what the results showed, Milanova has stated some women felt their cramps subside after 15 minutes and some after an hour. Have I mentioned that all packaging is biodegradable, sustainably sourced, compostable, and water-soluble too?
Is Daye helping women? Tick. The planet? Tick. Heightening our expectations for menstrual products? Tick. What about inclusivity? When heading to the brand’s website, there is a glossary of terms explaining everything from ‘period poverty’ and LGBTQI+ to burnout and pelvic inflammatory disease. Daye also has its own platform for women’s health called Vitals where conversation and transparency around its research will be audio-recorded and published.
Daye, therefore, looks like it’s made for women. That said, as cultural practises and lack of sanitary aid has meant pads and cloths are more familiar in the east, making tampons significantly more common in the west , what kind of woman is the company targeting?
Founder Milanova says plainly, “We don’t want to force tampons on anyone. We’re simply here to raise the standards in period care and upgrade the tampon, a product that has been overlooked for way too long”. Raising standards in female health and bridging the gender gap in medical innovation seems to be the intention behind Daye.
Daye plans on manufacturing locally in places like China and India, where femcare is almost non-existent. The brand’s micro-monetisation in these areas could result in local commerce and entrepreneurship for women, because it’s crucial that women get invested in helping other women. CBD-infused tampons are just the beginning.