The government has pledged to tackle period poverty by providing free period products to primary and secondary schools. They have also challenged schools to go single-use plastic free by 2020. They have also pledged to eliminate unavoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.
Sounds good, but it’s not good enough. 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used every year and they all contain shocking amounts of plastic. The worst culprits are sanitary pads, a packet of which can contain up to 90% plastic - the equivalent of five plastic bags. If you’re a consciously minded individual that’s started taking their own tote bag to the supermarket could you even imagine throwing 5 plastic bags away in one fell swoop? You do it every time you have a period. Most tampons also contain a thin layer of plastic, not to mention the chemical bleaches, dyes and synthetic fibres that leave their trace on your body - the vagina is a hugely absorbent part of our bodies and personally we find it abhorrent that big brands can get away with not providing a tampon that is 100% organic cotton.
It’s irresponsible and reckless.
Of course, the applicators are a huge issue. Why has the attitude shifted so considerably towards single use plastic bottles and not single use plastic applicators? The dialogue surrounding periods should not be hushed up or deemed unsanitary (pun intended), in fact, the more we talk about periods, menstruation and period poverty the more we can do about it.
In a fantastic recent BBC documentary ‘War on Plastic,’ fronted by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Anita Rani they took the plight of our planet mainstream and encouraged residents of a quiet street in Bristol to bring out all of their single use plastic and display it on the street outside their houses. There was no mention of period products in the amalgamation of household plastics, but if we can get this dialogue into the mainstream with this petition then there will be soon because our next generation of women will grow up without generating serious amounts of plastic waste each time they bleed.
We agree that every woman should have the right to a stress free and comfortable period, and for a lot of women that means using applicators, but since there’s now an alternative to all of these plastic period problems we vehemently believe that the government has a duty to see the plastic waste from periods as part and parcel of their challenge for schools to go single use plastic free by 2022.
We vehemently believe that the government has a duty to see the plastic waste from periods as part and parcel of their challenge for schools to go single use plastic free by 2022.
After the initial phase of the City to Sea petition and an open letter from over 100 teachers to the government imploring them to make the sanitary products they’re sending to schools plastic free, the Department of Education released a statement during Schools Week saying that the successful bidder “will be required to offer environmentally-friendly sanitary pads as a minimum, and are encouraged to provide further environmentally-friendly options (such as menstrual cups or eco-friendly tampons).”
Well, Damien, thank you for listening but let’s not stop there. We have a unique opportunity right now to BE THE CHANGE. We could positively influence the way in which an entire generation experiences their period and in doing so, of the 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products that are used every year in the UK, this number is a shocking 100 billion worldwide, we could save 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads that get flushed down the toilet every day in the UK – many of which block our sewer systems and escape into our rivers and seas.
Period products should be plastic free, for the sake of the next generation of vaginas and for our planet.
The trouble with the above statement from the DofE is that they don’t say what percentage of the overall offering will need to be from sustainable brands which is why the City to Sea petition is so important because we believe that all products should be plastic free, for the sake of the next generation of vaginas and for our humble planet.
The government’s language is, characteristically, lose, which will ultimately give them more leeway to wriggle out of any pledge to be more sustainable come judgement day. Suffice to say we were less than thrilled to find out also, that Procter & Gamble (makers of Always sanitary pads) are acting advisor to the government on this issue. It doesn’t instill us with the hugest amount of confidence but the good that’s already been done by this petition has the potential to outweigh these adverse opposing factors.
This petition, which we hope you are already a part of, was started by City to Sea, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to stop the flow of plastic pollution from the city to the sea by providing practical solutions for individuals and businesses and by engaging in political action. Support for this petition has been given liberally by brands and individuals alike. Along with NatraCare, Wuka, Bloody Good Period, Ella Daish and The Cup Effect we sent an open letter to the department of education asking for 100% of the period products that will be supplied to schools to be plastic free, not just an undisclosed fraction.
The networks that these brands can tap into are likely to already be women that are on board with the importance of having a more vagina friendly and planet friendly period. Similarly, Ella Daish (@ecoelleuk) has shown her support for the campaign by taking to social media and encouraging her followers to sign.
We now need this petition to make the rounds in the communities and societal groups that might not be as in tune to these issues as you or us. So please share it with everyone you know, lay out the facts, tug on their heart strings, make them realise that our planet needs protection not just from plastic bottle waste but from period waste too. And then maybe, just maybe our government will realise too.
Ultimately the hypocrisy needs to stop. Pledging to encourage schools to be plastic free by 2022 means also supporting 100% plastic free periods.