Brenda Tootell, the founder of Freedom Products, was living in Brisbane and working as an IT Consultant with two young children when she saw a menstrual cup for the first time in 2008.
She recalls looking at many aspects of her daily consumption and ways to reduce their families household waste and says "I wanted to make changes to reduce our families eco-footprint and found some switches easy but others, like switching to cloth nappies, much harder. I thought a menstrual cup would be an easy switch to make to reduce my personal waste without much extra effort."
The numbers speak for themselves. Using just 5 tampons or pads a day for 5 days means a person will use 300 disposable sanitary products in a year. And with this, it is estimated a menstruating human will use an astounding 11,000 disposable tampons or pads in their lifetime!
Globally, it's estimated that around 2 billion people are of menstruating age. Even though some of these people won't have a period due to pregnancy, hormone imbalances, illness, or weight loss or gain there are still a considerable number of menstruating people.
Used disposable sanitary products, along with their packaging, contribute greatly to our landfill and can take a long time to biodegrade with sanitary pads taking 500-800 years to decompose. Disposables can also end up in our waterways, littering oceans and beaches and causing harm to wildlife.
Vast quantities of resources; land, water and pesticides are required to grow cotton for these products. Chemicals are often used to bleach and greenhouse gasses emitted when they are produced and transported. Only to be used once, then thrown away.
So there are great environmental benefits to using a period cup but there are other benefits too! They're healthier; they don't dry out the vagina and allow it to maintain it’s natural pH balance. As they're reusable, they are more cost-effective in the long run and you don't have to continually stock up on products or be caught off-guard when you have run out of supplies. Menstrual cups generally have a larger capacity than tampons and pads too, holding two to three times the volume of disposables, which is beneficial for people with heavy periods or menorrhagia.
Whilst Brenda thought they were an amazing invention she couldn't believe she hadn't heard of them and wasn't confident they would work so had some reservations. Menstrual cups were becoming more popular overseas but she was still perplexed as to why they weren't readily available in Australia. Were Australians simply not receptive to menstrual cups as a society?
Well, in part. She explained in the early days, menstrual cups were perceived by some people to be messy and unhygienic; a product reserved for barefoot hippies. But menstrual cups were also regulated by a governing body in Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which was a barrier to entry.
After trying several brands on the market, she began to get a good feel for what design features she liked and what she thought could be improved. Researching and developing the product became her focus for the next year as she worked alongside ergronomists, gynaecologists and product designers to design and prototype a menstrual cup which she planned to make more readily available to Australians and manufacture in Australia to support local industry.
In February 2011 the JuJu Cup was listed as a therapeutic good with the TGA and released to the market in July 2011 Over the years, they have continued to listen to their customers' feedback and innovate; tweaking their menstrual cup design, increasing their range of menstrual cups sizes and also expanding into other reusable period products including cloth pads and absorbent period underwear.
Freedom Products' mission to provide individuals with a healthier, more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to disposable period products. They operate out of Perth, Western Australia and continue to support the local manufacture industry, with their Australian-made menstrual cup. All their packing is printed in Australia and they support local disabilities groups, outsourcing the pre-packing of their products to these groups. More about the company.