Flushed Apps

What a fascinating life cycle! After their soft and spongy innards are consumed by female Homo sapiens, these indestructible exoskeleton-sheaths journey through the social network of the sewer system. (Males H. not so sapiens do sometimes use them, although judging from HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, only in a metaphoric sense.) Ubiquitous on our beaches, these shed applicators also pile up in sludge digesters at sewage treatment plants. Coney Island whitefish will largely break down in treatment plant anaerobic tanks, if they get there, but not the app-torpedos. “In the 1980s, roughly fifty thousand applicators a day were arriving at the wastewater treatment plants in Boston,” writes Alice Outwater in Water: A Natural History. She goes on to note that with their “great structural integrity” they would build-up in the digesters in a layer of 6-8 feet thick, requiring that the digesters be periodically emptied and cleaned. Whence then was not explained, probably to be buried in a landfill.The digester eggs at Newtown Creek digesting, but they can’t eat plastic.

Some of the apps captured in the wild at the wrack-line at Dead Horse Bay:Bonus fact: the average women menstruates some 440 times during her lifetime, using up to 15,000 tampons. The simplest alternative would be the ones with cardboard applicators.

6 Responses to “Flushed Apps”


  1. 1 Sara April 1, 2013 at 10:03 am

    “Coney Island Whitefish”? Love it!

  2. 2 Leah Labrecque April 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    A great alternative is cloth pads like those available at http://www.lunapads.com or http://www.blossom-pads.com. Just throw them in with the regular laundry and there’s no physical waste until they break down from too many uses, which I expect will be about 6-8 years of not throwing tampons and wrappers and applicators in the garbage.

  3. 4 emily blau April 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    the cardboard ones aren’t as asborbent and scrape delicate tissue when inserted. i’ve always used a diaphragm for having sex when i have my period, it’s good for 45 minutes.. now they have “softcup”, things that look a lot like a diaphragm and work pretty well, but you can’t use them if you’ll be taking them out in the type of bathroom that’s communal, they make a hell of a mess

  4. 5 emily blau April 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    and maybe i’m wrong, but the thing in the second photo looks more like a condom than a tampon to me


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