It’s time to Rethink Periods

We’ve launched an exciting new period education programme

Unicef estimates that on average menstruators spend 3,000 days menstruating during their life. So, we think it’s about time we Rethink Periods, and shake up period education in England.

Rethink Periods is our free, nationwide schools programme to update period education. With unbiased information on all period products available, as well as the social and environmental contexts of periods. From October 2019, we’ll be giving 600 schools with everything they need to educate and empower students when it comes to their period education.

why do we need to Rethink Periods?

In 2018, we ran a pilot with the support of Anglian Water and found that often periods are not covered in enough depth in schools, with boys regularly left out of the discussion. In addition, period education is often based on a few products, dominated by leading brands in a bid to hook consumers on their products for life. Above all, period education rarely touches on environmental impacts, including how to dispose of products. In the UK alone, 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet EVERY SINGLE DAY. As a result, we think students need education on ALL the products available to them, including plastic-free and reusable options, helping prevent damage to our oceans.

become a rethink periods ambassador

To become the Rethink Periods ambassador for your school, you can contact us to book on to a training session or find out more about the programme. By taking part you will get:

Detailed Lesson plans and teaching resources. These cover four topics including period products, the environment, myths and taboos, and period poverty.

Teacher training from our Rethink Periods expert trainers. Our trainers will guide teachers through all the menstrual products available. As well as the lesson plans and teaching resources . They will also demonstrate how the lessons can be taught in a dynamic, informative and engaging way.

A product demonstration box worth £110. With examples of every menstrual product currently on the market, including reusables and plastic-free or organic disposables.

All of this is completely free, and we can't wait to start booking teachers on to training sessions and sharing our wonderful resources. If you work in a school, please share Rethink Periods with your headteacher or PSHE leads, and if you are a student, let your teachers know you want this in your school. Equally, as a parent please pass on our details to your child's school if you would like them to take part.

A big thank you to...

This project is in partnership with WEN and was made possible thanks to the Waitrose Plan Plastic Fund and Hubbub. With findings taken from our pilot project supported by Anglian Water.

We have been blown away by the generosity from companies who have supported this project by donating their products. This has enabled us to make the 600 school product demonstration boxes as well as 60 trainer and ambassador boxes.

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You spoke, will government listen?

Today we handed in our petition calling for government to only send plastic-free period products into schools! Thanks to you, more than 37,000 people signed our petition, and well over 100 teachers declared their support for this premise.

We’ll keep you updated on the response from the newly appointed Education Secretary, but for now you can have a read of the letter we sent him:

Dear Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP,

Please find enclosed a petition signed by 37,112 people and a letter signed by over 100 teachers asking the Department of Education to only purchase plastic-free period products for schools. To save resources we have printed 18 pages of signatures on each sheet of paper, but we have also emailed the full PDF document.

In April 2019 We wrote to the former Education Secretary to welcome the government’s commitment to both tackling period poverty and eliminating single-use plastics in schools. We wrote specifically to seek clarification that the free period products that were to be provided to schools would be plastic-free, especially since government challenged schools to go plastic-free by 2022.

Here in the UK a staggering 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used every year! Many people don’t realise that most period pads (including Always, Bodyform and most supermarket own-brands) can contain up to 90% plastic – the equivalent of five plastic bags per pack of pads. Most tampons also contain a thin layer of plastic. What’s more, although no period products should go down the toilet, it’s estimated around 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet every day in the UK – many of which block our sewer systems and escape into our rivers and seas.

We were therefore delighted to read the Department for Education’s response to our concerns in an article from Schools Week saying that the successful bidder for the schools contract “will be required to offer environmentally-friendly sanitary pads as a minimum, and are encouraged to provide further environmentally-friendly options (such as menstrual cups or eco-friendly tampons)”.

We were further heartened to read a response from Nadhim Zahawi MP to a Written Question from Alistair Carmichael MP that:

“consideration will be given to the extent to which the materials used in the products are sustainable, whether the products are biodegradable and whether the products are reusable.”

We hope therefore, in light of the Government’s commitment to eliminate single-use plastic from schools, the public commitment to sourcing ‘environmentally friendly pads’ that are ‘biodegradable’, the wide-spread public support illustrated through the 38 Degrees petition enclosed and the call from teaching professionals (as illustrated by the enclosed joint letter), that you will ensure that all period products going into schools will be plastic-free.

We look forward to hearing confirmation from you, and of course, we are willing to support and celebrate your positive work in this area moving forward in ensuring plastic-free period products are rolled out in English schools.

Yours Sincerely,

Jasmine Tribe

Campaigns Coordinator

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More than 100 Teachers sign Public Letter to the Department for Education

Don’t flood our schools with single-use plastic period products, we’re trying to go plastic-free by 2022!

We are a group of teachers from across the UK, writing to you because we’re concerned about the ability of our schools to go plastic-free as your Department has challenged us to do. We are writing today to offer a simple and effective way you could support us in trying to go plastic free.

As teachers we recognise the importance of tackling period poverty. As such we welcome the announcement in the Spring Budget stating that this government would provide free period products to all school-age girls in England. We are writing today to seek confirmation that this government will ensure that all period products purchased with government funds including all those sent to our UK schools will either be plastic-free disposables or reusable products. This simple action could prevent the equivalent of 90 million plastic bags worth of plastic flooding into our schools.

We know that many people with periods and retailers don’t realise that most period pads (including Lil-lets, Always, Tampax and most supermarkets own-brands) can contain up to 90% plastic – the equivalent of five plastic bags per pack of pads. Without your support on this issue we fear it may be impossible for our schools to go single-use plastic free as you have asked us to do.

With all this in mind, could you please reassure us that government will not be sending period products into our schools that contain plastic.

Thank you again for the commitments to tackle both period poverty and plastic pollution and if you would like to discuss any of this further please do not hesitate in getting in touch with City to Sea who would be delighted to support you in this process. 

Yours sincerely, 

Rachel Carson, Primary school teacher 

“There is a gaping hole in understanding the plastic  problem and school is a great place to start making a difference. Providing plastic-free period products to combat period poverty seems like a golden opportunity to lift girls out of embarrassment and shame whilst simultaneously investing in their future. Why the government would not make this a priority, having recently declared a climate emergency, is beyond me.” 

Saskia Boujo, Secondary school teacher 

“As a secondary PSHE teacher I am faced with the reality of young people not having access to menstrual products: misinformation, absenteeism, stigma around menstruation.  Schools have a duty to open up the conversation so young people can choose from the options available to them, as well as a duty to promote sustainability for better health and for better education. So this petition is at the heart of improving young people’s lives.”

Sasha Gibson, Deputy Principal, Sinclair House School

“It is the children of today, and years to come, who have the true power to make a difference and ‘save’ the world. It is therefore our role and responsibility as educators to equip them with the knowledge and understanding of our current climate emergency within our curriculums. Our recent whole-school ‘Save the World’ Spring Term focus highlighted how passionate our children feel towards supporting a healthier and more sustainable world. The introduction of plastic-free period products is therefore not something we should be discussing or arguing over but instead, implementing without delay.”

Alex Barnes Geography teacher Hayes
Alice Powell Year 1 TA London
Alice Thubron Deputy of English West London
Amirah Miller Science Teacher West London
Andy Symms Year 6 class teacher London
Anita Molnar Cover teacher Bristol Secondary
Annette Rook Headteacher Tower Hamlets
Ashley Johnson Teaching Assistant Local authority infant school
Bethan Sleep French and English Teacher Local Authority Secondary School, North Wales
Catherine Southard Preschool teacher A nursery in London
Chella Quint Former head of PSHE, Founder of Period Positive Sheffield
Coralie Skerman-Gray Early Years teacher Independent (Letchworth)
Daniel SImson Depuy Head teacher Sefton Park School
Debbie Green Swimming Teacher Special Needs School
Dr Sweetpea Smart Teacher rtd/Invigilator Yeovil Academies
Eddie Mulvey Guitar Teacher Heath House Prep
Eleanor Walker Class Teacher Primary School, Bristol
Emma Carson Maths Teacher Catholic College
Francesca Paul Year 5 class teacher London
Gail Kelly Bursar Sunderland
Georgia Hodges Geography teacher Feltham
Georgina Tilyard Citizenship Teacher
Georgina Wilson DT teacher West London
Gianna Colligiani Yr 1 and 2 TA Bristol
Grace Bagshaw Class teacher Local Authority Infant School
Greg Orme Design technology and STEM Priory School, Lewes
Hannah Rowley Head of KS2 Charles Williams School, Caerleon, Wales
Henry Greenwood Founder and Managing Director Green Schools Project
Iain Ross Maths teacher St John’s School, Cyprus (MoD)
Ian Thomas Nurture Lead (HLTA) Secondary SEND school
Janet Tidman School Administrator Primary School, Ipswich
Jenny Flaherty Teaching Assistant Local Authority Infant School
Jo Dunbar Year 1 class teacher Sinclair house school
Jo Taylor Director at education consultancy Bristol
Joanna Cunningham repetition class teacher London
Karen Lambert EY leader Local authority infant school
Kat Bailey School Governor Infant and Junior school, Derbyshire
Kate Powell Primary Teacher Bristol
Kelly Hally Assistant Head Teacher Nottingham
Laura Cooper English teacher Halifax
Laura McLoughlin Year 3 class teacher London
Laura Ollis class teacher Somerset
Lee Rooke Head of PSHE KSHS, Lincolnshire
Louise McKee Biology teacher 6th form college, Manchester
Madeline Barker TA Kent grammar school
Marina Dickings Sociology & PSHE Stowmarket High
Matthew Haas Head of Round Square/Teacher Independent (Kent)
Michelle Lowe FS1, FS2, KS1 and Base Lead
Natasha Dadds TA Sinclair house school
Nicola Underhill KS3 coordinator Halifax
Nicole Packham Class Teacher Arunside, Horsham
Palmirah Joa Head of Science West London
Pat Walmsley 1:1 tutor Primary School Bristol
Rachel Carson Class teacher Local authority infant school
Rebecca Balmer Primary Teacher Bristol
Rebecca Peters Behaviour Support Special Needs School
Robert Slinn Teacher of Humanities Secondary School
Ruari Craig-Wood Deputy Head of English Desborough College
Sam Ferrara Teaching Assistant Sinclair House School
Sarah Clarke Class Teacher Gloucestershire
Sarah Lancashire-Clark Teaching Assistant Norwich
Shaila uddin Year 2 class teacher Sinclair house school
Simon Hutchinson PE Teacher London
Sophie Carr English teacher Halifax
Stella Morgan School Counsellor/ therapist Primary School, Tottenham
Steven Williams Year 4 class teacher Brunel Field, Bristol
Stewart Life SLE/Lead Practitioner Hellesdon High
Terri – Louise Bevan TA Sinclair house school
Tina Hampton Drama Teacher Local Authority Secondary School
Tom Moggach Class Teacher Primary School, London
Tom Stacy-Marks Class teacher (Year 5) Primary School, Bristol
Victoria Hendry Psychology Stowmarket High
Sandi Cummings Retired Teacher Wiltshire
Katherine Wells MFL Teacher Stowmarket High School, Suffolk
Ruth Price Teaching Assistant Cumbria
Anna Wesson Teaching Assistant Primary School, Cardiff
Jim Lancaster DT Technician & Site Manager Hampshire
Ellen Kemp Governor London
Lindsay Allix Parent Devon
Richard Holt Retired Teacher London
Michael Parsons Retired Swansea
Peter Ryland Retired teacher Norfolk
Bryan Bullen Woodland Manager Special Needs school
Alice Griffith KS2 Teacher Oxfordshire
Chrissie O’Hanlon Maths Teacher Secondary School
Sophie Lyle MFL teacher Secondary School
Anthea Blake Teacher Special Needs School
John Hopper FE Lecturer London
Jonny Kirman Class teacher London (Secondary)
Christine Jose Retired working 9 hours a week Southend Primary
Rebecca Rundle KS3 Maths Coordinator London
Hilary Standen Retired Teacher Staffordshire
Sophie Parsons Class Teacher London (Secondary)
Michael Williams Class Teacher London (Secondary)
Joseph Fairbairn IT Manager West Sussex
Valerie Bevan Secondary school teacher Cambridge
Mary Sarju Secondary Maths teacher Croydon
Rae Helm Communications and Marketing Co-ordinator High Storrs School
Edd Moore Year 3 Teacher and Eco Coordinator Damers First School, Dorset
Kate Clifton Science teacher Essex
Ruth Rigby Teaching Assistant Essex
Steve Bushby Teaching Assistant Norfolk
Mira Cooke Advisory Teacher Surrey
Tom Greenwood Vice Principal Greenwich
Roya K Rezaee Retired Blackheath
David Green School Crossing Patrol Gravesend
Ann Klaus Retired Teacher London
Lesley Giles Senior Professional Tutor Milton Keynes
Martin Berger Music teacher Kingston upon Hull
Teresa English Special Needs Teacher Norfolk
Tracey Hand Mathematics Teacher Reading
Kate Jackson Year 1 Teacher Hertford
Lynne Morton Class teacher
Rebecca Balmer Class teacher
Kate Powell Class teacher
Melonie Syrett RSE Consultant and Menstrual Expert London and Essex
Sarah Reeves Class Teacher South Wales 117

To join the call for plastic-free period products in schools, sign our petition here!

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Keep up the pressure – government are listening!

Thanks to your support our latest petition calling on the government to only send plastic-free period products to schools is already having an impact.

When we first wrote to the Department of Education with this ask they responded saying:

“We are working to explore whether environmentally friendly products and sustainable products can be integrated into the period product scheme and further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.”

Now more than 30,000 of you have signed our petition and the government are taking notice. In a recent article from Schools Week the Department for Education responded to our concerns, saying that the successful bidder “will be required to offer environmentally-friendly sanitary pads as a minimum, and are encouraged to provide further environmentally-friendly options (such as menstrual cups or eco-friendly tampons)”.

We want to clarify that ‘environmentally-friendly’ includes plastic-free requirements and ensure that all disposable products offered are plastic-free, not just pads, and not just as an opt-in. This is vital to ensure that government don’t flood the school system with the equivalent of 90 million plastic bags, after having just challenged them to go plastic-free by 2022!

We want to hit 50,000 before the government tender for school period products closes, so please keep up the pressure and keep sharing the petition. Your action is making a difference!

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Sign the petition: Plastic Free Schools need Plastic Free Periods!

We’ve just launched a new petition with 38 Degrees calling on the Department of Education to only purchase plastic-free period products for schools – setting young people up with products that are better for their bodies, the environment and their future.

Why is this important?

The government has made three promising commitments recently:

Having attended a government procurement meeting on period products for schools, it seems that they are not using joined up thinking to tackle all these problems at once. With all three commitments in mind we want the Department of Education to commit to only purchasing period products for schools that are plastic-free or reusable.

This would mean schools can offer students a range of plastic-free disposable products (tampons, pads and liners) and reusable products (menstrual cups and washable pads).

Here in the UK a staggering 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used every year. Many people don’t realise that most period pads (including Always, Bodyform and most supermarket own-brands) can contain up to 90% plastic – the equivalent of 4 plastic bags per pad! Most tampons also contain a thin layer of plastic. What’s more, although no period products should go down the loo, it’s estimated around 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet every day in the UK – many of which block our sewer systems and escape into our rivers and seas.

In addition to the environmental benefits of providing plastic-free period products, a reusable product option provides immense cost savings over time and reduces ‘period poverty shame’ – those who require free products find it more dignified to do so every 2-10 years, as opposed to every month. Research shows that over a lifetime an individual can save up to 94% of what would have been spent on disposable products, by switching to reusable ones.

If you want the government to use joined-up thinking in tackling these issues and commit to supplying plastic-free and reusable period products for schools please sign and share our petition here!


We have received a response from the Department of Education (copied in full below). It is clear that we need to illustrate demand for this. Please sign and share the petition >>>

Full response:

Thank you for your email of 18 April, forwarding Ms Natalie Fee’s letter of the same date, addressed to the Secretary of State for Education, Damien Hinds, about the supply of menstrual products in schools and colleges. I am sure you will appreciate that the Secretary of State receives a vast amount of correspondence and is unable to answer each one personally. It is for this reason I have been asked to reply.

Our aim is to ensure that all pupils and student can access education without worrying about their periods, which is why we announced the scheme to provide access to free period products in primary and secondary schools and 16-19 institutions in England.

We are developing this scheme in conjunction with stakeholders from the private, public and third sectors, as well as schools and 16-19 institutions to ensure our solution best meets the needs of all students and pupils.

As a government we are committed to encouraging the use of environmentally friendly products wherever possible. The Government’s 25-year Environment Plan was launched last January and this pledges the elimination of avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and promises to consider steps to discourage plastic items that prove difficult to recycle. To support this plan, the Department for Education’s Schools Commercial Team is working with its partners and suppliers who provide goods and services to schools, to help them to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics throughout the supply chain. 

We are working to explore whether environmentally friendly products and sustainable products can be integrated into the period product scheme and further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.

Thank you for writing to us on this important issue.

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Government urged not to flood schools with plastic period products months after challenging schools to go plastic free

City to Sea have today written to the Education Secretary Damian Hinds MP, urging him to make sure that all period products purchased by this government will either be plastic-free disposables or reusable products.

The call comes after government confirmed that they would be providing free period products to both Primary and Secondary Schools in England and months after the Government challenged Schools to give up all single-use plastics by 2022.

Most period products contain plastic. Period pads for example (including Lil-lets, Always, Tampax and most supermarkets own-brands) often contain up to 90% plastic – the equivalent of four plastic bags per pad, as well as using single-use plastic for packaging the products.

Commenting, founder of City to Sea, Natalie Fee, said:

“Following the announcement to provide period products in schools we want to ensure this momentous and welcome action isn’t a travesty for the environment by ensuring all schools are provided plastic free products. As such we are seeking confirmation from government that they aren’t planning on flooding schools with single-use plastic period products just months after challenging schools to go plastic-free. There are plenty of alternatives out there that are plastic-free, including many reusable options that can save school girls and the government money whilst having a smaller impact on our planet.

She continued, “Most people don’t realise that every single day in the UK about 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 pantyliners are flushed down the loo and that nearly all of these will contain plastic. The result is blockages in our sewers and used period products washing up on our riverbanks and beaches. I am hoping that Government will agree with us that this is a huge problem and set a real example by making sure all the period products they procure are truly plastic-free.”

Campaigns Coordinator at City to City, Jasmine Tribe added,

“In one move Government has the chance to empower young people, protect our oceans and tackle period poverty. People can save up to 94% over their menstruating lives by switching to reusable period products. I hope to see government rolling out a modern period education program alongside this great initiative as this is absolutely vital to get the most out of the scheme.”

For further information on City to Sea’s Plastic Free Period Campaign please visit

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