EnvironMenstrual Week: menstrual products pollute
20 October 2020
This week is EnvironMenstrual Week, a week in which more than twenty European organizations draw attention to disposable menstrual products’ negative effects on the environment and our health.
This week, from 19th until 25th of October, is an idea of the Women’s Environmental Network, a feminist environmental organization. They call on policymakers, producers, and shops to finally take action and develop affordable, reusable, and plastic-free menstrual products for all.
Every year, 590,000 tonnes of waste is generated in Europe by disposable menstrual products. Earlier this year, WECF published the report “Toxic-Free Periods“, a report (in Dutch) with a clear message: regular sanitary napkins and tampons generate an enormous amount of waste and health effects due to the chemical additives used.
Custom sanitary napkins consist of up to 90% plastic. Tampon inserts are even made entirely of plastic. This plastic contains plasticizers and flame retardants that have hormone-disrupting health effects. Tampons and sanitary towels also contain fragrances and bleach, chemicals you don’t want in your body.
During EnvironMenstrual Week, more than twenty environmental organizations sign a joint manifesto, the so-called Bloody Manifesto. This joint manifesto calls on EU leaders to promote the use of reusable and environmentally friendly menstrual products. These include making them more economically viable, promoting education for young women, and banning toxic chemicals. It also calls for these products to be provided free of charge for whom they are too expensive.
Menstrual products in the top 15 of litter
The effects of menstrual products and packaging on our environment are visible in the Clean Rivers study results. In one out of five measurements along the Meuse and Waal, they are found.
These put menstrual products in the top 15 most commonly found waste plastics in rivers. Via sewer overflows, these products end up directly in our surface water. Flushing menstrual products, moist wipes, and cotton buds directly contribute to the plastic soup.
Menstrual products and insertion sleeves are also among the top disposable plastics found on European beaches. From July 2021, the packaging of all menstrual products sold in Europe must indicate whether it contains plastic and the environmental impact if you dispose of it incorrectly by flushing it down the toilet.
Plastic-free tampons, menstrual cups, and menstrual pants are environmentally friendly alternatives. Although these products are increasingly on sale, they are only used by a small proportion of people. The price differences are merely large, and plastic-containing cheap menstrual products still dominate the market.
Both for the health of people who menstruate and our environment, the Plastic Soup Foundation supports Dutch retailers and manufacturers’ demand to include these alternatives in their product range.
Plastic-free menstrual products should become the norm, and women should always be able to choose safe and environmentally friendly alternatives! Read here our joint open letter (in Dutch) sent to Kruidvat, Dirk, o.b. and Essity NL, among others.
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