Sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches, more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws. In fact, it’s estimated that 700,000 panty liners, 2.5m tampons, and 1.4m sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every day in the UK alone. To stop sanitary products from having an even more adverse effect on the environment, some devoted women are taking a stand and pushing initiatives to combat this often-ignored form of waste.
One woman, Ella Daish, has been campaigning for years to persuade companies and governments to remove plastics from women’s sanitary products, and it finally seems the retail industry is taking notice. Last month, Sainsbury’s became the first company to stop producing plastic applicators for its own-brand tampons, removing 2.7 tonnes of plastic annually.
Governments are also starting to take a stand. The Scottish government, for instance, is engaged in a £175,200 campaign partnership with Zero Waste Scotland to encourage women to try free samples of period pants, menstrual cups, and reusable sanitary pads. In Wales, the city council of Caerphilly has taken the decision to devote all of its period poverty funding to eco-friendly products – a first in the UK.
The concept of plastic-free periods is nothing new, with one brand producing plastic-free, organic cotton tampons and pads since 1989. Now the aim is simply to make these products more available to all women.