Why 2019 Needs To Be The Year Plastic-free Periods Go Mainstream

There is no excuse for this excessive use of plastic when there are environmentally-friendly alternatives
Andrii Zastrozhnov via Getty Images

In 2018, the threat of plastic pollution and its adverse effects on the environment gained huge media coverage. Period products are no exception, with many becoming aware for the first time, just like me, that the tampons and pads that we had been using for years contained high amounts of plastic.

These products can contain up to 90% plastic and are constantly manufactured and discarded, with an estimated 100 billion disposed of annually worldwide. They can enter rivers and oceans and end up on beaches. In fact, a report by the European Commission found that period items are the fifth most common waste washed up on beaches.

This happens when they are incorrectly flushed down toilets, and shockingly an estimated up to two billion tampons, pads and applicators are flushed in the UK annually. This pollutes and negatively impacts the environment and contributes to ocean plastic, which kills around one million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish yearly. Over time, their plastic content disintegrates into smaller pieces, known as microplastics and fibres, which pose a further threat to marine-life and ecosystems.

They also contribute to over 200,000 tonnes of landfill waste every year, however, any not sent to landfill may be incinerated with the potential to release toxins due to their high plastic and synthetic content. But no matter where they end up, whether at the bottom of the sea, in landfill or on a beach, they will remain there for hundreds of years and pose constant danger to animals and birds.

Plastic applicators are another major issue stemming from the period industry. They are found so often on beaches that many have nicknamed them ‘beach whistles’. Applicators are used for a matter of seconds and should never be made from a material that takes centuries to decompose. There is no excuse for this excessive use of plastic when there are environmentally-friendly alternatives such as cardboard applicators or non-applicator tampons. That’s why this year I’m saying “See ya later plastic applicator!“ and why I’m determined to make 2019 the year of the plastic-free period.

Last year, we called upon Tesco and Sainsbury’s to take responsibility by removing plastic from their period care and to make eco-friendly options available in-store. Our actions paid off. By standing up together and making our voices heard, they could not ignore consumer demand and both supermarkets responded by stocking a range of eco-friendly period care, including reusable cups, nationwide.

I’m stepping things up in 2019 and kicking this year of action off by tackling two major period brands – Lil-Lets and Procter and Gamble, who own Tampax and Always – regarding their needless use of plastic applicators and the wider issue of plastic in their tampons, pads and packaging.

Join me in taking action by signing and following updates, so that we can make 2019 the year of change; the ‘Year of the Plastic-Free Period!’