The Women’s Environmental Network (Wen) is advocating #PeriodAction, by leading a revolution for healthy eco-friendly menstrual products to be used by all.
Wen’s Environmenstrual Coalition was founded in 2017 and is made up of 50 organisations and activists, including WI and Friends of the Earth, that aim to make plastic pollution from periods a thing of the past.
Plastic seems to be a predominant material used in mainstream menstrual products, from the wrappings to the plastic applicators. It has been estimated that up to 90 percent of a menstrual pad and 6 percent of a tampon is plastic.
Women and individuals who menstruate in the UK use 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their reproductive lifetime. These products include tampons, menstrual pads and panty liners that are all single-use.
200,000 tonnes of waste is produced per year. It ends up on landfills (if thrown in the bin) or in the sea and rivers (if flushed down the toilet) where it will break up into microplastics that take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Not only does this plastic waste damage the environment (such as killing up to a million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals and marine turtles as well as countless fish each year), but using products that are made up of plastic can have devastating impacts on human health too.
But it’s not just plastic that is the issue. Non-organic menstrual products are made from cotton sprayed with chemical pesticides, which not only have a detrimental effect on workers producing cotton, but pesticide residues have been found in menstrual pads and tampons.
In addition, the raw ingredient (wood pulp) used to make menstrual pads, is bleached white to remove its natural brown colour. This ‘purification’ process can generate dioxin, which is one of the most highly toxic and persistent chemicals known and has been linked to reproductive disorders and cancer.
As part of the Environmenstrual campaign, Wen has invited individuals, groups, schools, universities and organisations nationally, to take part in the Environmenstrual Week of Action which will be held from the 12 - 19 October 2019.
The theme of this year’s Week of Action is influencing change, to show how plastic-free movements are linked to period justice.
Natasha Basheer-Piette, Environmenstrual Campaign Manager, said: “We are really excited about this year’s Environmenstrual Week of Action. There is real momentum for change.
"Sainsbury’s has recently announced the removal of plastic tampon applicators from its own range. But we need more manufacturers to come on board and for people to shop with their feet, by trying reusable period products.”
Events will be held around the country, raising awareness of the impact of plastic in menstrual products while showcasing alternative plastic-free options.
Wen has created adownloadable toolkit that has detailed advice and resources on how to run an event for the Week of Action. Ideas include, film screenings, creating washable pads, quiz nights, beach cleans and fundraising activities.
Participants can register their events online as well as check for events happening in their local area. Also contained in the toolkit are letter templates and social media posts, so that people can easily contact manufacturers and retailers, to demand that plastic be removed from single use period products.
Through the Environmenstrual Week of Action, Wen wants to break the taboo surrounding periods. People will be encouraged to try reusable menstrual products, for example menstrual cups, washable pads, period pants or to make the switch to using plastic free and organic single-use options.
To motivate individuals to try a #plasticfreeperiod, Wen have a supplier list and discount vouchers for plastic free products. Wen also has a washable pad pattern available to print and suggest that consumers read the ethical consumer product guide.
To celebrate this movement, Wen will be hosting the Environmenstrual Festival on Wednesday 16 October at Amnesty International UK in London. The festival will be held from 6.30pm-9.30pm, with guests able to browse stalls, take part in interactive workshops and hear a panel discussion with guest speakers.
Tickets for the festival are £10 early bird and thereafter £15. Concession prices are available. You can find the link for booking tickets through Eventbrite.
This article is based on a press release from the Women's Environmental Network.