With its eye-catching packaging and convenient CleanSeal wrapper technology, Tampax’s Radiant line has become a go-to choice for many tampon users. Tampax is owned by a corporation called Procter & Gamble (P&G). Upon reading P&G’s statements on sustainability, you will find that the corporation has successfully reached several of its sustainability goals and has set ambitious yet tangible goals for further reducing their impact. However, when it comes to the Tampax brand, I was disappointed to find little information on the manufacturing processes of their specific products. Additionally, I found the Radiant line to create large amounts of avoidable plastic waste. Tampons are already a disposable product, contributing to significantly greater waste and emissions per user than their longer-lasting alternatives (namely the menstrual cup). Compounded with the line’s frivolous use of plastic, Tampax Radiant falls short of adequate, even in comparison with other single-use products.
On several levels, Tampax Radiant Tampons are unnecessarily wasteful. Perhaps the most stark testament to this wastefulness is the fact that Radiant tampons come with plastic applicators, despite cardboard being a viable and far more sustainable option. This decision feels even more disappointing in light of the fact that Tampax itself utilizes cardboard applicators in some of its other tampon lines, revealing this method to be entirely available. On the flip side, Tampax is fairly transparent about the sourcing of their cotton and rayon, both of which appear to be gathered ethically and responsibly (though cotton production requires high water usage). The Tampax website reveals that their tampons have received the OEKO-TEX seal, which classifies their products as free of any harmful compounds. However, a few of the ingredients listed in this product do not measure up to this certification: Polyester, a polymer known to shed microplastics throughout its life cycle, as well as paraffin, a pollutant-emitting wax made using crude oil, are both used. On the whole, Tampax seems to place convenience over sustainability when it comes to the composition of Radiant tampons.
With regards to its sourcing and production processes, Tampax and P&G have displayed a genuine effort toward operating sustainably, as well as a level of earnestness that many large corporations have failed to retain on this subject. They are open about their successes, failures, and future goals regarding sustainability. Notably, P&G reveals that between 2010 and 2020, they have reduced energy use per unit of production by 19%, reduced truck transportation by 25% per unit of production, and water use per unit of production by 27%. They also concede that they have only reduced packaging per consumer use by 12%, 8 percentage points short of their 20%-reduction goal. The company provides tangible sustainability goals for the decade ahead, aspiring to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and increase their water efficiency by 35%. While it is relieving to know that P&G carries these goals for the future, I found a lack of available information from both Tampax and P&G on the specific production process of Radiant Tampons. Additionally, these goals and projections would wield greater credibility had they come in tandem with their baseline levels of water usage, carbon emissions, and material waste. Overall, I would like to see P&G follow through more diligently with their commitment to transparency, especially within the Tampax brand.
Tampax and P&G tout their interest in social justice and equity through several programs and campaigns: P&G has created several affinity groups for their employees, sought certifications on the ethical sourcing of their resources, and attained commitments by their suppliers to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in the next 5 years. Additionally, the Tampax brand has launched multiple campaigns to remove the stigma surrounding conversations about menstruation and has donated over 6 million tampons to humans in poverty. However, P&G misses the mark when it comes to the actual compensation they provide their workers, with the 25th percentile of employees earning $13/hour, while top earners receive $102,242 salaries ($49/hour). Before they can truly create the sort of positive social impacts they strive for, P&G must start from within their company by providing livable wages to all of their workers.