The XX Factor

You Can Buy Special Little Bags Just for Your Used Pads and Tampons, But You Shouldn’t

The original “discreet” pad and tampon disposal system.


Capitalism has attracted a lot of criticism over the years, but you have to give it credit: It’s the only economic system that allows overconfident entrepreneurs to introduce mind-bogglingly stupid products to the world. This week, Fusion draws our attention to one of these products: MaskIT, “a unique and discreet disposal method for used feminine hygiene items.” MaskIT is a small, biodegradable pouch that you wrap around your used tampon or pad before you throw it in the trash. It is a tiny, special pre-trash trash bag just for your used menstrual products.

Fusion writer Taryn Hillin is not a fan. Her primary critique of MaskIT—which is a very good one—is that the product perpetuates period stigma. MaskIT is predicated on the notion that touching used menstrual products is disgusting. You wrap the mitten-shaped bag around your hand, grab your used tampon or pad, invert the bag around the used tampon or pad, and seal the bag with an adhesive strip. “You don’t need to touch your tampon anymore!” the MaskIT website boasts, as though making contact with an object that has absorbed your uterine lining and touched the walls of your vagina is one of the most difficult obstacles the modern woman must face.

Hillin also dug up a truly amazing ad for MaskIT in which a couch-bound menstruating woman commands her boyfriend to take out the trash, and said boyfriend puts on a dust mask, oven mitts, and an apron before gingerly picking up the garbage bag with a pair of tongs. “That’s so gross, I’m never doing that again,” he petulantly exclaims after the chore is done. In real life, this situation would result in either a breakup or a mental health intervention for a man suffering from a debilitating phobia. In the universe of the ad, the boyfriend buys MaskIT so his girlfriend can shroud her used menstrual products in an airtight polymer film before they go in a trash bag, thus sparing him the psychological discomfort of being a single layer of plastic away from small amounts of a fluid that came out of a healthy woman’s vagina. The scenario is as ludicrous as it is offensive. “It’s time to cut out this idea that women should be embarrassed if anyone sees their period products,” Hillin writes. “We bleed and we soak up that blood with products that we dispose of in the trash. Get over it.”

I would add: We’ve developed our own methods of “discreet disposal” of used menstrual products, methods that do not involve spending $7 on a cardboard box filled with 26 tiny pouches. Methods like: Wrapping used pads and tampons in toilet paper. Wrapping used pads in the wrapper we’ve just taken off a fresh pad. Using menstrual cup and reusable cloth pads, which don’t produce any waste that needs to go into trash cans. But really, I can’t stress this one enough: Wrapping used pads and tampons in toilet paper. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

MaskIT makes an extremely weak argument against this method by estimating that the average woman uses 24 rolls of toilet paper annually wrapping up her tampons—based on the assumption that women use 26 tampons per cycle (which seems high) and 20 squares of toilet paper per tampon (which seems so astronomically high that you almost have to conclude it’s a bad-faith estimate). In reality, toilet paper is cheap, efficient, biodegradable, and does a good job of keeping used menstrual products from getting blood all over the contents of your trash bag. Not all problems need a market-based solution. This one didn’t.