Plastic Free Periods

Ella Daish’s Campaign for Plastic Free Periods

The plastic problem has now been well publicised and things seem to be (slowly) moving in the right direction, whilst we may all be doing our bit by thinking about what we buy, making sure we bring reusable bags to the shops bringing reusable coffee cups and water bottles with us, Industry however moves slower. When you go into a supermarket you still see most things covered in excessive plastic, however there are some small signs that at least supermarkets and manufacturers are thinking about this with the odd item appearing with less plastic packaging. Whilst it is easy to notice that things like fruit and veg are being sold in plastic containers, there is a lot of other single use plastic around us, in things you perhaps haven’t yet thought about.

Period products are one of these, it is estimated that 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 pantyliners are wrongly flushed down UK toilets each day, adding to a colossal 2 billion a year! Many of these if not intercepted at the water treatment works will end up in rivers, the sea or on beaches. These are actually the fifth most common type of plastic waste found on beaches around Europe.

Supermarkets and manufacturers and brands who do not have ethical values built into them will be happy to continue to use cheap plastic if no one notices or says anything. This is where Ella Daish comes in!

Back in 2018 Ella was working as a postal worker when she noticed the amount of waste being thrown away each day seeming to get bigger and bigger as time went by, which got her thinking, where does this stuff actually go? She started to think about her own consumption, and all of the stuff she uses mounting up as she goes on in life, so she chose to do something. One thing she realised was not talked about was period products, which can contain up to 90% plastic but are only used for a number of hours, yet can take over 500 years to break down.

Ella had seen the power of online petitions so decided to set up her own petition with the aim of removing plastic from all period products. Straight away it was clear there was a lot of support for what she was doing and that most people were not aware of the problem.
Plastic is engrained into our culture and is so normalised, most people assume things need to be plastic but we know plastic period products aren’t necessary, we’ve been selling great brands such as Natracare since we started in 2006, who haven’t recently changed what they are doing to respond to the current climate against plastic, because that is what they have been doing all along. There are some great other options like menstrual cups from Mooncup and OrganiCup which will last for up to 10 years!

So Ella set out to target those companies that were not paying any attention to what was in their period products and try to help them make a change for the better. Going into all of the main supermarkets Ella found there was literally no plastic free options available so there was clearly work to do!

Her campaign calls for supermarkets and manufacturers to remove plastic from their period products including tampons, applicators and pads. Plastic straws, bags and bottle shave dominated the discussion on plastic reduction so far so period products don’t usually get talked about and as a result most people are unaware of the problem.

The campaign has been a remarkable success so far with the petition receiving over 200,000 signatures already and still rising. You can sign the petition to make all Menstrual Products Plastic Free here

The petition has given her ammunition to push her case and arrange meetings with supermarkets and manufacturers, many who were totally unresponsive at the beginning of the campaign agreeing to meet her.

The campaign has had some great results so far including:
– Sainsbury’s stopping the production of their own-brand plastic tampon applicators, saving 2.7 tonnes of plastic each year
– Aldi stopping the production of their own-brand plastic tampon applicators, saving 14 tonnes of plastic each year
– Bodyform have listed the ingredients of their products on packaging and are switching to at least 50% renewable outer packaging on their ‘ultra’ lines. This means that 50% of the packaging will now be made using responsibly grown sugar cane waste.

Ella has also had meetings with supermarkets and manufacturers include P&G, Boots, Bodyform, Superdrug, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi and Lil-Lets.

Despite the huge support and success of the campaign so far, some things are moving slowly, large companies take a long time to adapt, so if you want to take action now there are many easy options available:

Go Plastic free:

Ethical Superstore have been selling plastic free feminine care since we first opened in 2006! There are some wonderful brands such as Natracare have been encouraging women to say goodbye to plastics, perfumes and chlorine since 1989 with their organic and natural range of tampons, pads, liners and wipes.

Try reusable:

You can save money and reduce waste with reusable cloth pads and tampons which can be just as absorbent as regular disposables. We have great brands such as Bloom & Nora and ImseVimse.

Period underwear:

Enjoy a zero-waste period with period-proof underwear, reusable and washable which are sustainable and stylish from WUKA and FLUX.

Menstrual cups:

These are a fantastic alternative to sanitary towels and tampons, the cups are made from silicone and can last up to 10 years so potentially cutting a huge amount of waste! These come highly rated, with 92% of women who have used them would recommend them to a friend. We have great options from Mooncup, OrganiCup, Fair Squared and Enna to choose from.
Whatever option you chose, these are options out there now to cut the unnecessary use of plastic.

One other area Ella is focusing on is local authorities and governments to encourage them to spend their period poverty funding on eco-friendly products which has already led to Caerphilly Council committing to spending 100% of funding sustainably, which is a global first! This has the benefit of helping tackle period poverty, the plastic crisis and protect the environment simultaneously.

The campaign has gained much recognition with Ella being named on the Independent’s Happy List 2019, BBC 100 Women 2019, The Big Issue’s Top 100 Changemakers of 2020 and the campaign has won the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Award for Best Campaign 2019.

Through her work with Caerphilly Council, Ella saw period poverty is another big issue which needs to be addressed, so to go alongside her campaign she launched the Eco Period Box, this is a box which retailers could have in their shops to encourage customers to make a donation of period products when they are shopping which went to various charities chosen by the shops involved.

Some exciting news coming soon…

We have some exciting news on the Eco Period Box… we have been working with Ella to create an online version of the Eco Period Box on Ethical Superstore! From 11th March to 31st of March you will be able to make a donation in the checkout or simply add extra items to your basket which will be donated to Changing Lives, for every 10 donated, we will add a further two items. We’ll be making an announcement on this very soon.

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