Hi, my name is Lilly and I’m on my period. A statement to stop any conversation dead in its tracks. So, I ask why, in 2020, with 26% of the global population of menstruating age, is there still a taboo and embarrassment around periods? Why do we shy away from talking openly about something that those of us with periods spend years of our lifetime experiencing? Not only are we doing people who menstruate an injustice, but the global issues relating to periods are gobsmacking. This isn’t an issue for individuals to deal with in private, this affects every single person on the planet, and we all need to do better!
The UN Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. It’s shocking that period waste and poverty directly hinders five of these goals. Good health and wellbeing, gender equality, responsible production, quality education and reduced inequalities. That’s without considering the impact on life on earth and in our oceans from plastic waste and toxins.
WASTEFUL PERIODS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS
According to the Women’s Environmental Network, the average woman will use more than 11,000 disposable menstrual products throughout the course of her life. Tampons, pads and panty liners amount to more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year in the UK, by comparison, RECOUP data shows that in 2019, household waste from plastic bottles amounted to 634,000 tonnes.
Pads contain up to 90% plastic, and products are bleached white and filled with toxic chemicals (urgh!). People are drastically changing their plastic habits, but this can’t be limited to straws and carrier bags. We all know that small changes by individuals can have a huge cumulative impact.
After years of quietly wondering what all the fuss was about, I switched to menstrual cups four years ago and can honestly say they have changed my (period) life. You’ll struggle to find a user that won’t rave about the benefits. Even if cups aren’t your thing, the choices for a cheaper, more sustainable and convenient period are endless, discs, period proof underwear and reusable pads… get googling!
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities and waste management. It affects those who experience periods all over the world and even right here in the UK there are many in need of period products unable to afford them. unable to afford period products. Elsewhere, it is a huge obstacle in the progress for gender equality and the quality education deserved by deserved by all. One in ten girls in Africa miss school due to period poverty and 50% of girls in Kenya do not have access to sanitary products. In India, it is estimated 42.6 million women cannot afford period products.
THE GOOD NEWS
The switch to a more sustainable period has never been easier as the reusable period products available are excellent and there are options to suit everyone. There are also incredible charities working to end period poverty and reduce stigma and taboo. We must start this at home, let us talk with our families, friends and colleagues. Let us have these conversations without embarrassment and make changes that are bloody good for the planet!
Some of the many charities fighting period poverty:
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