MY plastic trash Plastic Free July

Doing this plastic free July while backpacking in S.E. Asia. I do have to apologise for the very tardy documentation. We are stuck on a fairly remote beach with very limited wifi. I know… nightmare! But we are spending the day in town so here is quick post.

Backpacking certainly makes some aspects PFJ easier. Eating for example. I dont have to worry about plastic packed food because I eat out most of the time. But those of you who know me will agree that I eat very plastic free when at home and will give me a pass on this one?

And of course travelling plastic free comes with its own challenges but we have done it before and know what to pack. You can see my plastic free pack here. Except, and I can hardly believe this, we left our water bottles at home. Actually, why am I acting so surprised? We are always leaving our water bottles places!

When Your Water Bottle Lets you Down

So when we got to Malaysia, Georgetown (the Pot Shop in the market), I bought this; a shiny stainless steel, wooden trim, in the style of Kleen Kanteen but a fraction of the price, water bottle. That came in a cardboard box. Woohoo with knobs on. Got home to find it wrapped in a plastic bag! 
But we used the bag for our rubbish and not the plastic lined bin in our hotel room so I guess you could say we saved on a plastic bag? actually we never use the plastic lined bins when back-packing. Because we don’t use plastic, we don’t make that much rubbish. Any we do create we release into the wild. By which I mean we put it into a communal bin.

Train Food Traumas

As the local train was 2 hours delayed so we went for lunch, in a cafe, where everything was served on china, with real cutlery and cups. A plastic free meal was safely negotiated. Feeling confident I ordered a cold coffee. I discussed at length about how I didn’t want a straw with a very sweet girl who spoke reasonable English and was full of enthusiastic agreements. So I went ahead and ordered an icy frappe choco caramel coffee. It came in a plastic cup with domed plastic lid and straw from the takeaway stall across the road. It was very tasty though.


When it finally arrived, the train was a lovely hodge podge of carriages of differing ages and styles. Some were ugly commuter rail cars with vinyl padded seats, others old-school timber lined carriages with hard wooden seats all painted bright ginger and looking like something from the Wild West. In the interests of going plastic free we chose them.

The train showed no interest in making up for lost time rather it dawdled along. It was a long journey, a very long journey and even the intense caffeine/ sugar rush of the capo frappe choco shake eventually wore off and was replaced by a hunger pangs. There was plenty of food for sale and the sellers were happy to mount the train and bring it to you direct.

Sadly Thai vendors have taken to wrapping their food in plastic. Everything but some lurid orange chicken legs in steel bowls came plastic bagged. We didn’t fancy the chicken. In the end I bought some sticky rice wrapped and cooked in deep green banana (?) leaves. When we came to unwrap them we found they had been tightly tied with red plastic string. They were like tiny little sweets. The leaf wrappers went out of the window where they would biodegrade back into the jungly earth if they were not wolfed up by strange hairy beasts first. The string of course had to be kept to be thrown away in a bin when we eventually got off the train, to be (hopefully), taken to landfill. The whole procedure revealing just how ridiculous and unnatural plastic packaging is.

Good Plastic Bad Plastic

Other plastic includes the stickers off our new (plastic) ninja snorkelling masks. Which may seem strange, hypocritical even. But I dont shun all plastic. I think it is a fantastic material with a role to play. I think that we are misusing it and abusing it. We dont need to make plastic stickers with it for instance. And please note the plastic lighter is harvested from the beach. I didn’t buy it I was gifted it by the sea.

Had To Be

Tin cans and bottles of beer – sorry I have lost count about 20 cans of beer (plastic lined) and 4 bottles of beer (metal caps are plastic lined) I would guess. It is hard to avoid this. If you want to visit a bar in the evening with friends you have to buy a drink.

I dont mind taking my own water to the table in a restaurant ( especially now I have super classy bottle), but I draw the line at drinking from my own bottle in a bar. Even if they didnt say anything, I’m absoltely sure that would think I was smuggling in my own booze and I couldn’t stand the shame.


2 straws obviously my mimes were not too good

Burning plastic in the home

Some feel my worrying about plastic in the home is taking it too far?  Disposables? Yes, they can see I might have a point. But nylon carpet, foam-filled pillows and  polyester drapes…. what could possibly go wrong?

Well good taste aside…. you know how we were talking about hydrocarbons containing a lot of energy? Well all that energy means they burn hot. And that plastic is made from hydrocarbons. You got it. Plastic is a fuel too. So much so  that it actually has a higher BTU than coal. Great for waste to energy incinerators not so good for house fires.

For generations, firefighters’ had, “on average, 17 minutes to get anyone inside out of the building before they succumbed to smoke inhalation.” Because of modern fast burning synthetic furnishings that time is down to 4 minutes. Natural fibres and fillings do not burn as fast.

You can find lots more scary stats here plus a spooky burning chair that shows just how quickly you can be overcome.

Please people make sure your smoke alarm is working and maybe pay a bit more for cotton curtains and a wool rug.

Found this very interesting table on fumes released by burning. Hers an example…

Upholstery • Nylon Polybrominated diphenyl ethers Hydrogen chloride Hydrochloric acid Hydrogen cyanide Dioxins Possible carcinogen; poison by ingestion. Highly corrosive irritant to eyes, skin and mucous membranes; mildly toxic by inhalation. Corrosive; mildly toxic by inhalation; when heated to decomposition emits toxic fumes of chlorides. Asphyxiant; deadly human and experimental poison by all routes. Carcinogen; a deadly experimental poison by ingestion, skin contact and intraperitoneal routes. Immobile in contaminated soil and may be retained for years. No Yes Yes Yes Yes

And this

Burning a small sample of a synthetic fibre yarn is a handy way of identifying the material. Hold the specimen in a clean flame. While the specimen is in the flame, observe its reaction and the nature of the smoke. Remove the specimen from the flame and observe its reaction and smoke. Then extinguish the flame by blowing. After the specimen has cooled, observe the residue.

And this on toxic fibres and fabrics


Natural fabrics

The more I sew the more I realise all fabrics are not the same – even if they go under the same name! The following are my ongoing notes on the subject. I have a lot to learn!


Lawn is a very fine cotton though as with everything in life it seems you can get different grades of fabric that have, predictably, slightly different qualities. The Ebay lawn I used to make my wrap around top creases far more than the Thai lawn from Japan I used to make the back packers bloomers. I am not complaining about the Ebay lawn. It is still good and at that price, a real bargain. But if you don’t like ironing but do mind looking crumpled than it might be better to try and source a higher grade fabric.

I though I had when I bought some grey lawn from the Button Box in Huddersfield to make the Choir Boy Top. This is more like a muslin more crumply than the Japanese lawn but nots as creased at the Ebay stuff.

Printed Cotton





How to buy Food

So you want to cut your plastic? Let’s start with …

Try your local shops first. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source. You might be suprised. Asian Supermarkets and Polish Delis are particularly good.

Here is a list of food types by category with purchase details

Loose Food A to Z

Find out if a shop near you sells bulk food loose. This is stuff that that normally comes plastic packaged ie rice, pasta and salt. And yes these shops do exist in the U.K. There’s just not many of them.

Heres a list of towns with shops selling loose food.

Supermarkets & Chainstores 

Because sometimes we have to shop there and yes you can get plastic free and zero waste stuff. Read up about them plus
eating for a week, plastic-free, only from supermarkets  – a case study.

Bags & Packaging

Shopping plastic free means taking your  OWN PACKAGING. Check out the plastic-free shopping kit here.


Delivered in glass bottles but double check before you order

Other Products

Find the  plastic free products you want and the purchase details will be in the post.  You can search by search, or via these menus……
By Category Everything from food to watering cans to clothes

By Task Want to know how to wash the pots, throw a party or sew #plasticfree. Check out these posts organised by task!


Shops and products we have used on our travels

Here is my plastic free tool kit…

a to z of plastic free Labels by task 2

Drinking chocolate

Plastic free July  beverages include  the rather luxurious real drinking chocolate. I have long been on a quest to source plastic-free cocoa. It has not been going well. Morrisons let me down and then there was my mothers disappointing cardboard box. I was nearly there  in  Whitby but had to leave  before it happened. If you want to know more you can catch up here….

Well Todmorden Market once again come up trumps. The deli stall sells real drinking chocolate wrapped in paper and foil. You buy it in bars, bash it into bits and melt it in hot water or milk, (or my personal fave half / half mix), to make drinking chocolate. Or you can chuck a chunk in a shot of espresso in to make a funky, monkey mocha. It tastes good but there is a downside – it  is not cheap and you can’t use it to make chocolate cake!


2017 Plastic Free July

Of course every month is plastic free for me but plastic free July is a time to make a bit of extra effort.

What is Plastic Free July

The aim is to cut your consumption of one use plastic, for one month; how much you choose to cut is up to  you – read my take.

A bit of history

Plastic Free July started in 2011 in Australia  in 2013 it went global. They have a great website and are all round good eggs.

My Plastic Free July
I try to cut all disposable plastics including the lesser known sneaky plastics

Progress Reports
As this page can get rather full I tend to report my own progress separately .
A Day By Day Update –  right here

1 straw obviously my mimes were not too good
3 plastic line cans of beer because I get so bored of water

 U.K. Participants

Who is we? Every year UK based bloggers have joined in.
It’s really important to link up with U.K. based plastivists who will be sharing throughout the month. While some solutions like solid shampoo from Lush can be accessed UK wide,  many are local.

First off we have Lisa at

and Sarah at

Pip- squeaking @Pip_Squeaking of in her second year now. <

From Bristol it’s the Cheeky Girls of Green:
Author and TV presenter @nataliefee. Read about here in thePlastic Free U.K. Directory:
And Michelle film maker, writer of the great blog Plastic A Lot Less and tweeter @beingpall.
They are the brains behind numerous campaigns, the latest being

Get on the list

If you are tweeting or writing this year go to that post and add your details in the comment box.

You can find a list of bloggers who have contributed in the past, here.

Keeping in Touch
Facebook groupf eatured

Join in at the Plastic Is Rubbish Support Group where people share plastic free tips.
And Twitter @plasticSrubbish

I encourage UK participants to use the hashtag #pfjuk for British related posts. Mainly because it gets very dispiriting to hear of a fantastic bulk food store only to find it is based in Sydney.


Water Tap

Tap water in many countries the water is actually safe to drink. In others sadly it is not. You can find out here…
Can I Drink The Water?
Visit this super cool website to find out if you drink the water. Just pick the country you want and read the result.

Safe Tap Water

Yes? Hooray – all you need to take is your refillable bottle. Fill it with tap water and no need to ever buy bottled.

Read up about U.K. Tap water here 

But Surely Bottled Is Still Better?


Some articles on the subject
And here 
And this about PET plastic bottles 
So much so that water bottle bans are becoming more common 

Not Safe Water?

Sterilise Your Own Water
When the tap water is not safe we still don’t buy bottled water. Instead we sterilize tap water using a Steripen. Been doing this for years all over the world.

Refill Schemes

Refill Schemes in the U.K. The U.K.  is one country lucky enough to have safe drinking water BUT sometimes when you are out and about it can be hard to access tap. These worthy schemes  aim make safe, free, tap water available.

Refill Abroad

Many countries offer a refill service where you can buy filtered purified water
Find A Refill Service
S.E.Asia Thailand & Malaysia

Carbonated Water

But I like fizzy water. Make your own from tap 

Water Bottles

Check out which refillable water bottle here


In the office– try these water filters 

Got no taps?– If you must drink bottled water this might interest you; water packaged in PLA compostable plastic bottles

Better still – make your own water from air. Have a look at this interesting machine. “Our smallest machine, the Water from Air™ AW3 makes up to 32 litres of great tasting, purified water straight from the air. Our largest, scalable machines (WFA100+) make up to 1500 litres per day, per unit – for example, if the need is 6000 litres per day, the configuration will require 4 stackable units.” Visit the web site. 


Waste – A definition

On some servers this post is corrupted. Please follow the link to the replacement.

But while you are here, lets talk waste.

Waste is used to describe:
materials not needed after primary production:
the unwanted byproduct of a process:
Products no longer needed:
Objects that are now defunct:

Examples include municipal solid waste (household trash/refuse), hazardous waste, wastewater (such as sewage, which contains bodily wastes (feces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and others.

Waste is often considered worthless but this is usually not the case. It very much depends on the type of waste. And the waste disposal system favoured.


About The Alternatives

Living plasticfree sometimes means going alternative. Trying different things. There are many kinds of different alternatives talked about out there in Google land,  some credited with the most fantastic attributes. But before you reach for the bicarbonate of soda and depend only on vinegar to sanitizer your kitchen, it might be worth investigating a little further.

This series of posts looks beyond the claims and tries to assess if these alternatives are indeed that great or even that greener in the long run,

Essential Oils

Essential oils have gone from being an obscure aspect of botany to an all round marketing  ‘good thing’.  Almost every ...
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Natural fibres for brushes

Natural fibre brushes come in many sizes - you can get everything from big bristly brushes for sweeping yards to ...
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Natural V Synthetic fabric

In April I am going to be trawling through my wardrobe, ( such as it is). here is some background ...
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Natural Fibres & Bristles

A  guide to natural and biodegradable fibres that are safe to compost and can be  washed without shedding tiny plastic microfibres ...
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Things to consider when choosing glass packaging as oppose to plastic What is glass  Glass is made from sand, soda ...
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Vinegar is great. You can use it for all kinds of things and is almost plastic free to buy. Vinegar is ...
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Antiseptics & Disinfectants

This post talks about Microbes Antiseptics Disinfectants Alcohol Bicarbonate Of Soda Vinegar Hydrogen  peroxide Soap Essential oils This is an area ...
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Paper versus plastic versus reusables

So if I don't want to use plastic bags then would I suggest using paper as an alternative? Well actually ...
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Plastic? Rubber? Just plain weird? Used for everything  from ice-cube trays to adult toys to cake tins it certainly gets ...
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Oils, lotions & creams Index

Fats and oils are used to keep the skin supple and prevent moisture evaporation. Many oils and waxes can be used ...
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Raw Materials or ingredients

You might need to make plasticfree alternative products.


Borax occurs naturally in evaporite deposits produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. The most commercially important deposits are ...
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Fatty Acids – Oils, Butters & Waxes

Oils Butters & Fatty Acids  I Use For Cosmetics You can use a lot of waxes and oils neat to ...
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Essential Oils

Essential oils have gone from being an obscure aspect of botany to an all round marketing  ‘good thing’.  Almost every ...
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Eucaplyptus Oil

Replace plastic inhalers with a bottle of eucalyptus oil - but be careful, very careful how you sniff! Using Essential ...
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Shea Butter Leeds

This is a quick introduction to Shea Butter Semi soft buttery oil. Read more about butter oils and waxes here ...
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Vinegar is great. You can use it for all kinds of things and is almost plastic free to buy. Vinegar is ...
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Bicarbonate Of Soda

This one product can replace hundreds of plastic bottles on your shelves. It does biodegrade. However there are issues about ...
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Rapeseed Oil

Rapeseed (Brassica Napus) or rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi, rapaseed is the bright yellow flowering plant grown in swathes all over ...
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Coconut Oil

Is a hard oil which has a very low melting point. When the weather gets warm it will get liquid ...
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Palm Oil

While I was in Malaysia I got to see some orangutangs. Most of them were in the rehabilitation center which ...
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Hydrogen Peroxide

Bought a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from Big C Supermarket in Thailand. The bottle is glass the cap is metal. Plastic ...
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Washing Soda

Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda, soda ash and soda crystals) is the water-soluble sodium salt of carbonic acid. It is alkaline. Pure sodium carbonate is a ...
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I use soap to wash my body I don't like using soap on my face so I cleanse with oil and ...
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Latest Products

Bentonite clay was first found in about 1890 near Fort Benton, Montana.

It is derived volcanic ash.

It consist of smectite minerals, usually montmorillonite

montmorillonite is named after a deposit at Montmorillon, in Southern France.

Other smectite group minerals include hectorite, saponite, beidelite and nontronite.

The presence or not of these minerals affect the value of the clay and of course what it can be used for.

From Where

high-grade natural sodium bentonite is found in
western United States in an area between the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming
the Tokat Resadiye region of Turkey.

Mixed sodium/calcium bentonite is mined in
Greece, Australia, India, Russia, and Ukraine.

calcium bentonite
U.S. Mississippi and Alabama.[2] Other major locations producing calcium bentonite include New Zealand, Germany, Greece, Turkey, India, and China.


Bentonite deposits are usually extracted from quarries.

Extracted bentonite is solid.

It is crushed and, “if necessary, activated with the addition of soda ash (Na2CO3).” Don’t know how or why but soda ash is also known as washing soda. You can read more about that here.

The crushed material is dried till the moisture content is around 15%

Depending on what it is going to be used for the bentonite may be
sieved resulting in granulesor
milled into powder
purified by removing the associated gangue minerals, or
treated with acids to produce acid-activated bentonite (bleaching earths),
treated with organics to produce organoclays.

Fun Facts

In 2011, the U.S. was the top producer of bentonite, with almost one-third world share, followed by China and Greece


Bentonite presents strong colloidal properties and its volume increases several times when coming into contact with water, creating a gelatinous and viscous fluid. The special properties of bentonite (hydration, swelling, water absorption, viscosity, thixotropy) make it a valuable material for a wide range of uses and applications.

“The real benefit of bentonite clay is that it is abrasive enough to remove the plaque but not so much so that it will do damage to your enamel,” Graves says. Like charcoal, it may also help raise the pH of your mouth, making it more challenging for bacteria to grow.
Face masks


See how to make all kinds of plastic-free food, clothes makeup and other stuff 

Other basic products and more useful information that help you live plastic free and information about them can be found here…. 

– useful to know tag.


Disposable Cups

Disposable cups are made from plastic lined paper, polystyrene or plastic.

To make paper cups water proof they are laminated with polyethylene, a plastic resin.

Sustainability is Sexy claim that paper cups are made from virgin wood because there are major problems making paper coffee cups  from recycled paper. Regulations are strict about what materials you can use to package food and drink and  recycled paper isn’t strong enough.

We use a lot of disposable cups.

Here are some figures. As you can see, cup waste is huge!


The 2.5 billion synthetic cups thrown away in Britain every year are made from a mixture of materials which prevents them from being recycled alongside paper and cardboard. Daily Mail

A report conducted jointly by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation and Starbucks found that 1.9 billion cups were used by Starbucks in 2000.[5] In 2006, Starbucks reported that this figure had grown to 2.3 billion cups for use at their stores.[6]

And just recently the Guardian reported that “A conservative estimate puts the number of paper cups handed out by coffee shops in the UK at 3bn, more than 8m a day. Yet, supposedly, fewer than one in 400 is being recycled.”

According to the paper industry, Americans will consume an estimated 23 billion paper coffee cups in 2010. Rob Martin, the Vice President of Merchandising and Production for Tully’s Coffee, estimated the 2006 use usage at 16 billion paper cups.[4]

Some Solutions

Polystyrene & Plastic

Why anyone would want to drink out of a polystyrene cup is beyond me. The drinks taste horrid which many be due to the nasty chemicals that go into polystyrene. Plastic cups too are awful. Flimsy and tacky.

Polystyrene is difficult to recycle. Difficult but not impossible …

For those of you who insist on using plastic cups there is  the  save a cup recycling system

Save a Cup was established by the vending, foodservice and plastics industries as a not for profit company. It was set up to collect and recycle used polystyrene (plastic) vending cups. Today the service has been extended and now includes cans, pods, plastic and paper cups.

Paper/plastic Cups

Because these cups are made from paper and plastic they are difficult to recycle. The parts have to separated. Though this can be done it is a complex  procedure which adds to the cost of the recycled product.

Leading many recyclers to say that they don’t recycle paper cups. Though some do. It’s a murkey scenario at best.

Compostable Cups

There are compostable products  on the market. they are made from clear certified-compostable, cornstarch plastic (PLA)  or paper cups lined with the same. Vegware for example do a full range.  But  there would need to be far more, large scale municipal composting schemes for this to be a properly effective answer for the above amounts of waste. You can check out a rather sweet cup to compost scheme here.

Take Your Own Cup

Of course none of the above address the issue of creating massive and unsustainable amounts of trash by using disposables. Don’t be part of the problem – take your own reusable cup and use that instead. You can find a great range of cups here.



The Range – a chain of home & garden shops

Loose pet food, home wares and some loose sweets.

Being committed to local shopping, I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source.
Sometimes though there is no option but to use

Supermarkets & Chainstores

And yes you can get some plastic free and zero waste stuff there but YOU WILL NEED TO TAKE YOUR OWN PACKAGING. Check out the plastic-free shopping kit here.

The Range

This is new to me. It replaces Homebase on Leeds Rd, Huddersfield HD1 6ND.

It is one of 120 U.K. stores.

It sells  paints, crockery, bedding, art supplies and some garden stuff.


Pet food & Bird Seed

It gets my plastic free vote for it’s loose bird seed and pet food. You can see pictures here.
There is more animal feed in paper bags.
I don’t have pets so cannot speak from experience how good this is but well done for offering plastic free.

Other Stuff

Includes enamel cups – very pretty!

Get There

Directions to the Huddersfield Store
Phone:01484 534707


Wednesday 9am–8pm
Thursday 9am–8pm
Friday 9am–8pm
Saturday 9am–8pm
Sunday 10:30am–4:30pm
Monday 9am–8pm
Tuesday 9am–8pm

Other Stores

Shopping Tips

If you want to buy loose you will need to take your own reusable packaging – produce bags, tupperware even compostable disposables. You can find them here.

For the plastic free freak metal lids to glass jars are of course plastic lined .

Tin and cans including those for cosmetics are also plastic lined

For products that are packaged in plastic choose to buy simple plastics that can easily be recycled

Do remember not all stores stock all products. It might be wise to check ahead if you are making a special visit.

Don’t Like Supermarkets?

Other places to buy unpackaged food are listed here


Menstrual internal protection reusable

Products to deal with menstruation are plastic heavy  ( see some stats). They are made from plastic, come wrapped in plastic, block drains and dirty the sea shore. You really don’t want that kind of rubbish inside you, your bin or your environment. The way to cut your trash is to get a menstrual cup.

Menstrual Cup

This is  little cup that you use internally. It collects the flow and is then emptied washed and reused. Before you squeal and scream read this series of posts by one of the best environemental writers around.

Really, try them, they are easy peasy and the slight inconvenience is more than compensated for by the increased comfort factor. They are far more pleasant  then other internal protection.

Some of the many advantages include

  • Never run out of protection
  • No need to take your bag to the loo with you
  • Great for travelling in wild and rugged places
  • No need to put of dirty, plastic sanitary items in the bin next to the loo.
  • Much more comfortable
  • Saves you loads of money
  • Don’t see your pantyliner out on the beach


I like Moon cups  – made from silicone check out the site for more info. You can buy Mooncups in shops including

English: Fleurcup menstrual cup (large size); ...

Boot’s. If you want to get them on line try Ethical Superstore or Amazon 


Natural rubber cups are available from Australia.They are  called, rather dungeons and dragon like, The Keeper. It’s the  same principle as the Mooncup  but made of  natural rubber rather than silicone. They will ship,  see their website

Other Options

For those of you who cant face the thought of fiddling around, there are lots of alternatives here