When we think of ocean plastic pollution we tend to go to images of marine animals eating plastic bags, straws stuck up turtles’ noses and single-use water bottles washing up on our beaches.
The Scottish government have committed to adopting the EU single-use plastic directive (which requires labelling on all products that contain plastic) regardless of our Brexit status.
Pollution Team Assistant
Another, perhaps lesser discussed, issue comes from menstrual products- these can contain up to 90% plastic and are constantly manufactured and discarded. During our Great British Beach Clean 2018, on the 494 beaches across the UK that were cleaned and surveyed, volunteers found on average 580 tampon applicators and 863 panty liners.
The problem comes from these products being incorrectly flushed away, with an estimated 1.5bn – 2bn sanitary items flushed down Britain’s toilets each year. These items end up in our rivers and seas where they pose a danger to marine life. Plastic items will continually break down over centuries until they become tiny microplastics- these small particles make their way into the food chain where they’re eaten by fish, which end up on our plates.
Millions of pounds each year are spent on clearing pipes and sewers that have been blocked by tampons, pads and other similar items that have been flushed incorrectly.
Laura Parry, Pollution Team Assistant at MCS said:
“The Scottish government have committed to adopting the EU single-use plastic directive (which requires labelling on all products that contain plastic) regardless of our Brexit status.”
“We’d like to see the same commitment made by the English and Welsh governments.”
In Cardiff, a 17-year-old pupil has started a petition calling for labeling on tampons and sanitary pads – there is currently no UK law to show the amount of plastic in these items.
The shouts for eco-friendly and accessible menstrual products are becoming louder. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is calling for all free period products in schools across England to be eco-friendly, and campaigner Ella Daish’s petition for plastic-free menstrual products has nearly 200,000 signatures.
And it seems as if retailers might be beginning to pay attention, as supermarket giant Sainsbury’s have announced they will stop producing and selling own-brand plastic tampon applicators in an effort to minimise their use of unnecessary plastic.
Having to use menstrual products is unavoidable for most women, and while alternatives do exist -including silicone cups and reusable cloth pads – they haven’t quite reached the mainstream yet. It is critical that products are accurately labelled with disposal information that is easy to understand.