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Plastic-free periods: Interview with campaigner, Ella Daish

Ella Daish is campaigning for all period products to be plastic-free and biodegradable. To date, her petition has received over 240,000 signatures! We caught up with Ella to meet the period pioneer behind this powerful petition.

First things first, what’s the problem with plastics?

“The problem with plastic is the way in which it is being used. When it is used unnecessarily, this is when disaster strikes! More and more plastic is being used in society for every day and single-use products. This is now impacting our environment, wildlife and seas. Whilst the use of plastic is valid in certain circumstances, it should be used conscientiously and only when necessary.”

How much plastic is in non-organic period care?

“Worryingly around 90% of each conventional menstrual product is plastic. And each sanitary pad contains the equivalent of about four plastic bags. Our natural cycles should not equal unnatural plastic period care.”

Alongside environmental impact, are there any health implications?

“At present, there are many synthetic ingredients in our period care. Some of these include artificial fragrances, odour neutralizers and highly absorbent materials. So, without fully knowing the ingredients this understandably is a cause for concern. Moreover, tampon and sanitary pad manufacturers aren’t required to disclose ingredients. This is because period care products are considered “medical devices”. Some of the methods used to make these commercial products include chlorine bleaching and pesticide spraying of cotton, which can lead to pesticide poisoning in cotton workers. Other health implications can include toxic shock syndrome as well as yeast and bacterial infections.”

Why do you think it’s important for these products to be biodegradable?

“These products need to be biodegradable as they currently take 450+ years to break down and therefore have a prolonged negative impact on the planet. In addition to this, with 200,000 tonnes of sanitary products being sent to landfill every year, this needs to change! They need to biodegrade quicker, be plastic free and non-toxic so that they are creating the least harm to our environment.”

What are your thoughts on reusable period care products?

“There are some fantastic reusable period care options out there such as menstrual cups and washable pads. They are not only long-lasting but also cost effective and I believe they are definitely the way forward for a future with less waste.”

Do you have any top tips to help people have a plastic-free period?

“Firstly, if you use mainstream tampons and pads I would say that it would be great to switch to a plastic-free and biodegradable alternative. This isn’t just better for the environment, but also for your own health!

If you already use biodegradable products or want to dive straight into something else, then I would suggest trying a menstrual cup or washable pads. When you first try a cup, it can take a little while to get used to, so I would definitely recommend using Eco-friendly pads in conjunction with them.”

What inspired you to start this petition?

“After I saw the amount of rubbish being disposed of on just one of my postal routes, thinking of this occurring on a huge scale horrified me. In Cardiff, there is a collection of babies’ disposable nappies each week. Sometimes there would be three or four bags outside some of the houses. I then looked into what I waste in my personal life. After some research, I was shocked to discover just how much plastic there was in sanitary products. After changing my menstrual options, I kept thinking about how many women use these products worldwide and how many like me aren’t even aware of this problem. Subsequently, this led me to start the petition to make all these products plastic free and biodegradable, and to raise awareness of this issue.”

What would you love to see in the future?

“In the future, I would like to see mainstream disposable period products changing to be both plastic free and biodegradable worldwide. I would also like to see new legislation in place requiring companies to list the ingredients of these products, seeing as they are used in/around such an intimate area of our bodies. It would also be brilliant to see a bigger percentage of women using and trying reusable options.”

Thank you so much to Ella for taking the time to answer our questions! We think you’ll agree Ella is a true period pioneer! You find out more about Ella’s petition and support this campaign here.

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