How Much Do “Free” Tampons Cost Schools? $2.48 Per Student Per Year in Cambridge, MA

I have previously speculated (here) about what it would cost for public schools in Yonkers, New York to put menstrual products in the bathrooms of public schools serving students in grades 6 through 12. According to press reports (here), the Yonkers Board of Education had estimated that supplies would cost $29 per student per year. 

I now have some data from the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Public Schools (CPS) that indicates that the actual costs can be much, much lower.  The CPS graciously shared with me their three-year purchasing figures. Based on a three year average (calculated during traditional, non-pandemic times), the cost of keeping dispensers stocked with menstrual products is more like $2.48 per student per year. 

I have reviewed data provided by the Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) for three calendar years: 2017, 2018, and 2019.  I did not independently review the figures, but with the permission of CPS, I share them. The CPS’ average expenses were:


3-Year Cumulative Total

Average Per Year







Waste wrappers



Waste receptacles






CPS estimates that approximately 1,700 female students are served by the restrooms stocked with these products. Therefore, on a per student basis, the cost of the menstrual products themselves (including waste wrappers but excluding receptacles and dispensers) is approximately $2.48 per student per year.

The big cost appears to be the dispensers themselves. Presumably those do not need to be replaced very often.

In terms of menstrual products purchased over the three-year period, pads represented 54-57% of CPS’ menstrual product purchases. Tampons represented 43%-46% of products purchased.

This information will be of great interest to researchers and others.

Thanks to CPS representatives Manikka Bowman (Vice-Chair Cambridge School Committee), Vedad Konjic, James Mahoney (CPS Chief Operating Officer), Rosalie Rippey for their assistance in making this data publicly available. Thanks also to Tom Devlin.

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