How To Recycle A Menstrual Cup

If you’re a menstrual cup user, chances are high that you switched from tampons to a reusable option, because of the sustainability of the product. Or maybe you’re aiming for a minimalist or waste reduced life-style. But how sustainable is a menstrual cup once you don’t use it anymore? And where do you dispose of it if you don’t want to create waste?

For me, personally, the best option would be to just throw a finished cup in the compost and let mother nature decompose it. But if it’s made of medical-grade silicone, like Ruby Cup, it’s not compostable. It is, however, not a hazardous waste material to “aquatic or soil organisms. So while it is not compostable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use.” So what’s the best way to recycle a menstrual cup? Here are my unexpected findings.

Related post: Menstrual Cups vs Reusable Pads: the Best Zero Waste Option

What To Do With Your Menstrual Cup Once You Stop Using It?

Maybe you’ve already used your menstrual cup for a very long time and are thinking of replacing it. Or maybe you have more than one cup, since new colors, sizes and brands animate to try the latest “fashion” in the menstrual cup world.

An important point here is also that for some girls, it might take a few attempts to find the “Goldilocks” Cup. So what to do with all the cups, you don’t use anymore?

How To Recycle Your Menstrual Cup With Recycling Facilities

It seems that not many companies offer medical-grade silicone recycling. Those that do, often only recycle in scales and quantities suitable for companies, but not for the average menstrual cup user, who wants to get rid of one or two cups.

Recycling your menstrual cup with a sex toy company

My research, however, did bring me to Come As You Are in Canada. They do sex toys recycling. Yes, you read it correctly, they are recycling sex toys! Many sex toys are made of medical-grade silicone, like Ruby Cup, so when I asked them about potentially recycling menstrual cups, they said they’d be happy to take our old beloved cups! Hurray!

How it works: You boil your cup, then you put it in an envelope and send it to their provided address. Or you just drop it off there. Make sure you provide them with your email address or residential address because in return you get a 15% discount on their products in their online shop or their actual store. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?  I want more of those companies!

But: Come As You Are is in Canada, so if you live in Europe or Oceania, you might not want to send your cup that far but rather go local or be creative.

Ask your city’s recycling facility

Many cities in Europe burn their waste and create energy with the heat. Always a better option is to avoid and recycle waste. Chances are, your local recycling facility will know what to do with medical-grade silicone. Go ahead and ask them, maybe they will even be capable of taking it themselves.

Ask your local hospital

Many medical devices are made from medical grade silicone and will eventually need recycling or disposing of. Check with your local hospital how they recycle their devices and ask if you can piggyback on their solution. 

Can a plastic eating fungi also eat medical grade silicone?

This very unusual but highly interesting recycling option is not a joke. The Austrian Livin Studio Team is the one dedicated to the project on the matter.

What they do is the following: they developed the Fungi Mutarium. It contains a fungi that is happy and hungry for plastic. It lives from it and degrades it while eating without storing any residues producing an edible product in the end! Watch the video below to convince yourself: 

Fungi Mutarium: Prototype from LIVIN Studio on Vimeo.

If that little fungi would also be hungry for menstrual cups, this option would definitely make it my No. 1 on the recycling list. Unfortunately we don’t have this option for silicone yet, however we don’t want to deny you this pretty cool information.

How To Recycle Your Menstrual Cup At Home

These suggestion are pretty creative. And when we say creative, we really mean creative with a little wink of the eye. This is more a brainstorm of things you can do with a menstrual cup, because quite frankly, the options we could find are very limited. It’s not easy to find a good cause to re-use a menstrual cup.  But let’s see if we can inspire you nevertheless.

Use it for gardening

As medical grade silicone is free from hazardous ingredients, no harmful chemicals will end up in the soil. That’s why we thought that your green thumbs out there might have nice gardening options? Or simply grind your cup and celebrate your past life together with a nice burial in the garden?

How To Make A  DIY Spinach Planter From Your Recycled Ruby Cup

Update: Ruby Cup User Hannah actually got inspired by this part of the blog post. She decided to turn her Ruby Cup into a spinach planter and shared her tutorial with us. Of course, we’re posting it here for you to see, too:

“I have been doing self-watering planters with used vinegar and hydrogen peroxide containers. So, what would prevent me from going to the thrift store, buying a tinted glass jar, and inverting my used menstrual cup (with a cut opening at the bottom) so that I can use it as a spinach planter? Absolutely nothing! Now that I know I can recycle the menstrual cup after use, and knowing just how much it will save me and the environment, and what wonders a Ruby Cup can do for a young woman in poverty, I am definitely going to purchase a Ruby Cup! I hope my idea inspires you and perhaps others as well.”

About burning your menstrual cup

We asked an expert, a material scientist, about burning menstrual cups as a good recycling option. His comment on the matter was:

“Indeed, burning silicone (called thermal decomposition or thermal recycling for producing energy) is rather safe. Silicon dioxide is not harmful as it is basically sand/glass.” Needless to say, burning your cup will produce some CO2 but on a tiny scale, since the quantity of silicone used for one menstrual cup is so small.

And then there was our awesome Ruby Community member Reshma who actually did it and sent us this via Instagram Stories: