Ben. One word. [dramatic pause] Tampons. The future is tampons

It didn’t happen quite like that. But it might’ve if Mr McGuire could’ve foreseen where plastics might lead Ben.

It’s in the film, The Graduate, when a squirm-inducing party’s underway. Soignée women smoking. Slippery men drinking – oozing worldly wisdom and capitalism unbridled. Sort of.

Sleazy Mr McGuire takes Ben aside in a rather creepy manoeuvre. Tells Ben he should consider a career in plastics – because it’s the future.

How right he was.

Today there’s barely anything that once was paper or cardboard or wax or rubber – or whatever – that isn’t now plastic.


The water here is not left by the tide which is way out, this is just as you leave the road and is the result of the endless rain we’ve had

I went for a walk on our nearby beach yesterday. It’d been – ooh – roughly three months since last I was there, thanks to the wind and the rain. Yes, since mid-October there’s been barely a day without rain.

On England’s north-west coast it’s a hazard of habitation, precipitation.

This sanity-sapping rain brings with it a phenomenon that most people probably never consider.

But I worked in the water industry – and I do.

You see, sewage treatment and sewerage systems all rely on pipes.

Smallish ones take water-borne human waste away from our homes. Bigger ones join up all the homes. In cities, with large populations, even bigger ones deal with the effluent of homes and of businesses.

Sewers big enough to walk through. Believe me, I’ve done it.

All these pipes lead to treatment works. Some small, tucked down country lanes. Some massive, on city peripheries and industrial estates. Varying in complexity and efficacy.

But no matter how big, or complex a works, no matter how many pipes and drains are running clear, there’s always a deluge that can overwhelm the system.

And all around our coasts, overflows operate when there’s just too much rain.

It was plain they’d been in action, on our beach. Even if I hadn’t been living through the water torture it was obvious – there’s been an awful lot of rain.IMG_3810

Patches of speckled blue twinkled up at me everywhere – mostly shell fragments. But among them were other things.

IMG_3815Tampon applicators.

Panty liner wrappers and backing.


I didn’t see any cotton buds – also often blue. But they’re slender and easily missed.

And, seeing all this plastic, sewage-borne waste – plus the synthetic maritime ropes, plastic bottles and other detritus of nearby shipping – I thought about The Graduate and Benjamin.

Poor Benjamin, target of sleazy men’s career advice. Soon-to-be-lover of Mrs Robinson.

Yes, a video.

Yes, a video.

When that film was made people were already worrying about plastics.

The almost everlasting nature of the beast. The finite petroleum products used in their manufacture.

The waste of natural resources and the burden on our ecosystem.

My dad was one of those concerned people.

And I’ve followed in his footsteps.

The replacement of renewable materials with plastics is my particular bugbear.

Cotton buds, for example. The sticks used to be made of cardboard.

Tampon applicators used to be made of … cardboard.

Condoms – no, don’t be silly, they were never made of cardboard. But they were made of rubber. And lamb intestines. Both renewable resources. Well, not to the lambs I accept.

Anyway. You won’t be surprised to hear that there are now condoms made of newer materials: polyurethane, polyisoprene and – in the case of the female condom – nitrile. And even latex is often synthetic, not rubber, nowadays.

You can look these materials up if you’re interested – but where this is going, as you possibly guessed – is that all these synthetic materials are manufactured using petroleum products.

And so many things that once were made of paper or wood or rubber now are now made from plastic.

Paper plates. Paper cups. Drinking straws. Bags for greengroceries.

Trees are used to make paper.

Trees put oxygen into the atmosphere. They help stop floods – oh, wait, do you suppose?

Plant a tree, folks, help stop flooding and oxygenate the world!

Buy recyclable products – and I don’t mean plastic ones.

I know someone will tell me that we waste more resources and use more chemicals making and recycling paper blah blah blah – I don’t believe it! You can prove anything with statistics and the fact remains, petroleum is a finite and polluting resource.

But even if you don’t agree.


IMG_3811Don’t put plastic applicators, or cotton buds, or condoms or plastic backed panty liners (or tights – yes people do) down your loo. They have to be taken out by machines and by humans.

Panty liner backings are slippery creatures and can make their way through most mechanical filters. So can cotton buds.

And sometimes, what’s worse, these things go through a shredder, so that countless tiny bits of plastic end up in the sea. Pretending to be plankton. Being eaten by mammals.

Do you want that, really?

Do you?

Do you want our beautiful sea life – our porpoises and dolphins and whales and seals – to swallow your cast off plastics, so carelessly disposed of?

No, of course you don’t.

Bag it. Bin it. Don’t flush it.

And be like Benjamin. Ignore Mr McGuire.


This entry was posted in Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Ben. One word. [dramatic pause] Tampons. The future is tampons

  1. MELewis says:

    Okay I’m going to get down and dirty here: tampons don’t require an applicator! We all know where it needs to go, ladies, and assuming we wash our hands afterwards anyway…..;) Use the kind without an applicator and spare the planet all that unnecessary plastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. EllaDee says:

    Collateral Damage… if only like cigarette packets there were big bold easy to read messages on products rather than pretty designs designed to sell and/or obscure the -to some- practical purpose. I would add also baby/hygiene/makeup remover wipes. They clog up and poison water ways. We now live with a septic sewer system & rainwater tanks so we flush only what’s intended. We also use only eco-friendly/organic/recycled paper products and as little as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ricardo says:

    Here in the U.S. we have developed an addiction for plastic drinking straws – to the tune of over 500,000 per day. No margarita, iced tea, water, or soft drink is complete without the addition of a plastic straw.


    • No! That’s horrendous. Start a campaign to replace with paper!


      • Seriously – why are these restaurants automatically adding all these plastic straws? People drank without them for years. You used to have to ask for a straw – for the kids. Straws in glasses were the sign of a “casual” kid friendly eatery. No really nice place – or place that wanted to draw a more expensive/sophisticated crowd would ever offer straws.
        Straws are unnecessary and idiotic. (drink carefully like you are supposed to and you won’t spill on clothes, people.)


  4. The says:

    Good one Mary! Your intro line was perfect. Plastics! And all the junk that has been produced since that movie. Who would have thought. Will this be the legacy of our civilization?


  5. Thel says:

    Great piece. I love your intro– PLASTICS. You may have heard about the exfoliating microbeads that have just been outlawed in the US. I had never heard of them. Whoever thought that was a good idea?


  6. We live near lake, bay, and gulf and see daily the plastic menace that arrives from upstream carelessness.
    It’s even worse now that people ignore litter and are too lazy to pick it up when they see it. People used to be so concerned about the environment and anti-litter campaigns were strong and effective. Now so many just talk about the environment – no doing to fix.
    Trees are a renewable source. They are a crop. We did it. Paper can also come from recycling old products if there’s demand – right now demand has slacked off so it’s not cost effective.
    Far too much plastic out there – and it never goes away.
    (Those plastic micro beads were the substitute product for fine grains of sand in some medical/derm products. The sand worked fine. Hope it reappears)


    • Oh dear I didn’t know you’d commented – no email notification for some reason – sorry! I agree with everything you say! Paper straws for children. Plastic straws – why? Thank goodness it hasn’t reached such proportions here. Yet. It does my head in as they say around here. And as for the sand,they also used ground up apricot kernels etc – what’s wrong with them? Grrr.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello! Do you mind if I use your image of the tampon applicator on the beach for a social media campaign geared towards cutting out plastic applicators. I work for a startup organic tampon company called Orchidea Organic.

    Liked by 1 person

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