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:
- To tackle period poverty by providing free period products to primary and secondary schools
- A challenge to schools to go single-use plastic free by 2022
- To eliminate unavoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042
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 >>>
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.