What's up with the tampon shortage?

If the recent decision about Roe vs Wade wasn’t enough for people with wombs to deal with, America is currently in the throes of another crisis - a tampon shortage. From New York to Massachusetts, California to Mississippi people are reporting empty shelves and long delivery times when shopping for the most basic of period care products. But what is causing the tampon shortage and what impact is it having on the well-being of people who menstruate? 

What is causing the tampon shortage?

The American tampon shortage is being caused by a perfect storm of various factors. 

Firstly, whilst life might feel like it’s almost returned to pre-Covid normality, we are still feeling the after-effects of the pandemic. Supply-chain and logistical issues have been a huge problem over the last couple of years and this has had a knock-on effect on the manufacturer and distribution of period products. Even before the pandemic, America imported main of the materials needed to make tampons - like cotton and rayon  - from Asia and Europe. The pandemic has made it harder (and more expensive) to get your hands on these materials, so the manufacture of both tampons and disposable pads has slowed, meaning there are just literally fewer of these products in circulation. 

Secondly, we are seeing issues with labour and truck shortages globally, but America has been hit particularly hard. This means that even the tampons that are being made in America struggle to get distributed around the country.

But whilst these factors are definitely the root cause of the tampon shortage, they are issues that have been around for a while, so why are we only noticing the problem now? This really comes down to consumer behaviour. As news of the tampon shortage spreads, this triggers panic buying and stockpiling by people who need them (remember when everyone was buying 50 rolls of toilet paper at the start of the pandemic!?) which only makes the situation worse. Add this to the fact that it’s Summer - and tampon sales always go up when more people are likely to be swimming or hitting the beach - and you’ve got a recipe for tampon shortage disaster! 

Are tampons getting more expensive? 

Put simply - yes. 

As the materials used to create tampons are getting harder to come by, they are also getting more expensive. Cotton futures surged 40% over the last year and the plastics and super absorbents used in these period products come from oil - which is currently priced 70% higher than last year, due in part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As costs for manufacturers have soared, this price increase has been passed down to customers. Last month, Bloomberg reported that the average cost of a pack of tampons has gone up 9.8% in the last year and the average price of disposable period pads had gone up 8.3%. 

As always, this means that whilst the tampon shortage is affecting every American menstruator, those hit hardest are people from low-income families. Period poverty is something we are sadly still dealing with in 2022. In the States, 1 in 5 menstruators struggle to afford menstrual products every month, and whilst the tampon shortage hasn’t caused this problem, it will definitely make it worse. 

Many people who cannot afford period care products rely on food and hygiene banks to access them for free. However, the tampon shortage has understandably resulted in much fewer donations, meaning there are not only empty shelves in pharmacies but in these essential banks as well. 

What is being done?

Honestly - not enough. Companies like Proctor and Gamble have stated that “[the tampon shortage] is a temporary situation," and added that it is currently producing tampons 24/7 in their manufacturing facilities in an attempt to meet consumer demand - but that’s as much of a response as anyone is getting right now. 

The US government stepped in during the pandemic to tackle the shortage of things like toilet paper, but so far they have not had the same approach for the tampon shortage (surprise, surprise). However, last month US Senator Margaret Wood Hassan wrote a letter to the CEO of Procter & Gamble urging the company to “take quick action” on the tampon shortage. She also condemned “price gouging” and asked him to provide “justifications for the price increases that we have seen over the past year”. We’ll wait to see if they listen to her…

Tampon alternatives 

The tampon shortage has triggered many people to explore alternatives to disposable period products. We’ve seen a real rise in sales of our menstrual cups - and we can see why! 

Not only are menstrual cups a great alternative to tampons - they hold even more fluid and need changing less often - but they are also reusable. Once you’ve purchased a Lunette Cup, you won’t have to replace it for years and years  - so you won’t be impacted if another tampon shortage comes our way or if the cost of disposable products continues to rise. They are also created with medical-grade silicone, which is better for your body and the planet. 

Shop reusable period collection here.