What can we do to protect rivers, seas and beaches? Girls, Women, Sisters, Friends – Let’s talk about alternatives to plastic-laden period products. Regular tampons, pads and panty liners are loaded with hidden plastic which makes its way into rivers and oceans. This has a devastating impact on marine life and coastlines. It’s time to put a stop to it!
The Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) recently hosted an event at London City Hall, Environmenstrual, to raise awareness about the damaging effects of plastic in single use menstrual products, and to promote eco-friendly alternatives, such as reusables and organic disposable period products. It was a fun event whilst encouraging conversations around menstruation.
I was invited along by a friend, Doctor Linda Thomas, an Eco fashion designer – we’ve worked together previously as she has styled with my client Po-Zu’s shoes on the catwalk, and in photo shoots – and was doing so again at London City Hall.
I joined the WEN and 40 activists, social enterprises and menstrual-prenuers for the finale of Environmenstrual Week of Action.
Ruby Raut kicked off the panel discussion – I had been out to dinner with girlfriends the night before, discussing ‘Period Pants’ and teenagers – so this was incredibly timely – I’d urge you to check out WUKA (wake up, kick ass) the UK’s first period underwear brand. For leak free, ultra-hygienic and comfortable periods.
I was also delighted that Natalie Fee was on the panel – previously inspired by her City to Sea campaign to Switch the Stick in 2016. (scroll down to the foot of this article to listen to Natalie talking about Plastic-Free Periods on BBC Radio4 Woman’s Hour).
And also Susie Hewson, Natracare founder talking about how a woman uses 17,000 pads in her lifetime – All of their menstrual, incontinence and baby care products use only organic and natural materials – asking people to think about the impact of period waste on the planet.
Everyday the UK flushes:
700,000 panty liners
2.5 million tampons
1.4 million sanitary towels
The panel also talked about period poverty – Gabby Edlin, Founder of Bloody Good Period – who give menstrual supplies to asylum seekers, refugees & those who can’t afford them; , reminding us that Asylum Seekers receive a paltry £37.75 per week to live on.
Here’s some more facts and stats gleaned for your delectation – and hopefully will help you to make the right choices for your period products:
Are you a flusher or binner?
Up to 2 billion menstrual items are flushed down Britain’s loos each year and these can often end up on our beaches. Alway #binit
200,000 tonnes of waste is generated a year in the UK from tampons, pads and applicators! Let’s get Environmenstrual!
51 TRILLION microplastic particles 500 times more than the stars in our galaxy litter our oceans and seas. Those plastic pads, tampons and applicators are adding to this aquatic galaxy. Another reason to take #PeriodAction.
Make the switch
Did you know that by switching from #toxic, #plastic #period products to reusables you can save up to 94% of what you would have spent over your lifetime! Here’s to solutions that are good for your body, your wallet & the ocean 💃 ⠀
It’s easy to think that that the only period product options are single use pads & tampons – the shelves of supermarkets are crammed with pink plastic packets, promising that ‘fresh feeling’!
But there are some great EASY “Environmenstrual” alternatives to switch to:
All good for cutting out the plastic, nasty added-synethetic fragrance and saving money.
For more info and for some INTRODUCTORY OFFER codes click this link: https://www.wen.org.uk/periodswithoutplastic⠀⠀
Flushed, but not forgotten!
FOUR pads, panty liners and backing strips and ONE used tampon and applicator can be found per 100 metre stretch of beach!
And now to THAT DRESS
As the finale to Enviromenstrual Week, the campaign dedicated to educating about the link between People, Planet and Periods, Dr Linda Thomas hosted the Seeing Red fashion show.
Ten different organisations presented their take on Period Positive, headlining with the ‘Pantyliner Dress’ by Linda Thomas Eco Design.
This dress highlights how panty liners, menstrual pads and wet wipes contain plastic that becomes part of the problem of ocean plastic troubling our Planet. In January this year Toni Dowrick, with a handful of volunteers, hauled more than a tonne of a tangled mass of material from a Cornish Beach.
It had been spotted out at sea for at least FOUR years, and the year before Toni had spotted it during one of her many beachcleans.
She was too ill at the time in her recovery from breast cancer to retrieve it, so when it reappeared in 2018 she was determined. It is believed to be from a cargo spill of the top sheet material used in panty liners.
Linda and Toni met through the 2 minute beachclean community, and the BBC went on to film the process of Linda turning the tangled intestinal mass from litter to a dress. The fact that we know that this very thin material (probably cotton coated in polyolefin plastic) lasted intact for so many years at sea is a stark warning re how unflushable these finished products really are.
Linda says “This dress alone is the only reminder we need to never flush wet wipes or menstrual products down the toilet. So much mud, sand and seaweed had stuck to the fine material and yet it was mostly still entirely intact after years at sea, the thin coating of plastic being more than enough to make it melt under an iron and yet unable to break down in the water.”
I asked Linda to talk us through the making of the Environmenstrual Dress – and have saved this to my @incredibusy IGTV if you’d like to share it – watch it at the foot of this post.
Model Jess Sargent
Make-up by the eco MUA Khandiz
The Women’s Environmental Network are the only UK charity focusing on issues that link women, health & environment. Follow their campaign @environmenstrual 🌺#periodswithoutplastic to find out more about period plastic, period taboos, period poverty; Join us 👇🏼www.wen.org.uk
Listen to Natalie Fee talking about Plastic-Free Periods on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour:
Watch Linda Thomas on the BBC talking about the creation of the dress: