Environmenstrual week highlights sanitary plastic issue

14th October 2019

The second annual Environmenstrual Week is being held 12th-19th October, and is highlighting the issues that period plastic has on the environment, human health and period justice.

Organised by Wen (Women’s Environmental Network), the initiative advocates #PeriodAction, by leading a revolution for healthy eco-friendly menstrual products to be used by all. Founded in 2017, Wen’s Environmenstrual Coalition is made up of 50 organisations and activists, including WI, Friends of the Earth that aim to make plastic pollution from periods a thing of the past.The Week of Action is supported by​ Waitrose & Partners Plan Plastic Fund.

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% of a menstrual pad and 6% 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. This produces more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year which 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, taking up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Not only does this plastic waste damage the environment (such as killing up to 1 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.

#PlasticFreePeriods are the future - 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 12th - 19thOctober 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 “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 a downloadable 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.
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