Most women will menstruate until ages 45 to 55. All that fluid has to go somewhere, and unfortunately the tampons we use end up in the trash. What we don’t realize is that many tampon products are wrapped in plastic—from the packaging to the applicators. That’s why Ella Daish, a UK-based environmentalist, decided to change menstrual products when she found out how badly tampons affect the environment and her health.
Plastic-free tampons date back to 1989 when Susie Hewsons founded “Natracare,” a company that produces organic and cotton tampons. It started when Susie realized how damaging plastics were to the environment, and she soon came up with the idea of creating menstrual products that “respect women’s bodies and the environment.” Today, Natracare products are sold in more than 80 countries.
In 2018, Daish launched an online campaign about producing plastic-free tampons. More than 196,000 people have signed the petition, and it’s proven to be effective: Sainsbury’s, the second-biggest supermarket in the UK, has stopped producing its own plastic tampon applicators right after the petition launch.
Some European governments are also taking a stand. Scotland has partnered with Zero Waste Scotland in efforts of convincing women to try recyclable tampons. Meanwhile, the Caerphilly Council of Wales decided to “devote all of its period poverty funding to eco-friendly products.” Furthermore, the Women’s Environment Network is cooperating with the UK-based non-profit group City to Sea to create a program in schools called “Rethink Periods.”
Daish says that if brands like “Natracare” can produce plastic-free tampons, why can’t big brands do the same?
“There are many synthetic ingredients in our period care. Some of these include artificial fragrances, odor neutralizers, and highly absorbent materials,” said Ella in her interview with “Time of the Month.” This could raise a lot of health-related concerns for women. Tampon manufacturers don’t disclose their ingredients, so how would we know if a certain product contains toxic chemicals? Healthy living expert Andrea Donsky experimented with tampons to know the difference. She set “Natracare” and “Always Infinity Pads” on fire, with the latter producing black smoke that indicates toxicity, while the organic cotton pad “burned slow and clean.”
Fortunately, there are alternatives to these products such as menstrual cups and washable pads. A menstrual cup is “a small, flexible funnel-shaped cup made of rubber or silicone that you insert into your vagina.” A washable pad is a cloth pad that is “worn in the underwear to prevent menstrual fluid.” Both are reusable and eco-friendly.
But what about here in the Philippines?
In a 2015 study by the University of Georgia, the Philippines ranked as the third-worst country in terms of managing plastics. Even with the existence of bills that ban plastics, the country is still flooded with plastic waste. According to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Filipinos are throwing away 48 million plastic shopping bags, 45 million thin-film bags, and three million diapers every day. These findings were released just last March.
We can all learn a thing or two from Ella Daish’s campaign, and it all starts with taking initiative. Hopefully, big brands will also follow suit. Period products aren’t discussed that much, but this is still a global issue that we should address.