Ella Daish was walking the streets of Cardiff, Wales, as a postal worker when she noticed that the amount of waste being thrown away seemed to be getting worse.
The following week, she got her period and something clicked. “I began to realise just how much plastic waste I was generating during one menstrual cycle,” she told Mashable. “I did some research and became aware of how much plastic was in the products I was using and the impacts it was having, I was horrified.”
Daish started to think about how many people around the world are using products with hidden plastic – like tampons with plastic applicators. Daish switched to eco-friendly period products, but the issue kept bugging her. “It seemed absurd that something used for just a few hours is made from a material so durable that it takes centuries to break down,” she said.
To give you an idea of the scale of this issue, the Marine Conservation Society estimates that 1.5 – 2 billion menstrual products are flushed down toilets in the UK each year. Approximately 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down toilets in the UK every single day, per figures published in the Journal of the Institution of Environmental Sciences. Pads are made of around 90 percent plastic, according to the Women’s Environmental Network.
“I kept thinking, ‘what can I as a postal worker do about this?'”
“It really began to frustrate me, I had to do something, but I kept thinking, ‘what can I as a postal worker do about this?'” Daish said. “I couldn’t do nothing because if I didn’t then who would? I knew I had to take action to raise awareness and bring about change.”
Daish saw the success of other online campaigns and felt compelled to take a stand against period plastic and start her own petition. In early 2018, Daish began the #EndPeriodPlastic Change.org petition calling on supermarkets and manufacturers to make all menstrual products plastic-free.
In her petition she urged companies producing single-use period products to “take responsibility for the environmental impacts” of these products and to go plastic-free. “This petition covers menstrual pads/towels and tampons including their applicators, wrappers and packaging,” she wrote in the petition description.
“I knew that if smaller brands were making them without plastic then big manufacturers could too and that there was no excuse for them not to,” Daish told Mashable.
Since then, Daish’s campaign has gone from strength to strength. Over 194,000 people have signed the petition at the time of writing. In addition to the enormous public support, Daish has also gained the support of major retailers who have started to roll out changes.
Sainsbury’s supermarket just announced it would no longer produce an own-brand range of tampons with plastic applicators. A spokesperson said in an email to Mashable: “This is one of a range of steps we are taking to minimise our impact on the environment and remove unnecessary plastic.”
Daish described the change as huge news.
“They are the first manufacturing decision maker on the campaign to completely remove them from their range,” she said. “This is the kind of positive change we need manufacturers and supermarkets to be actively taking and proves that it can be done.”
But Daish isn’t stopping there. Now a full-time activist, she says the ultimate objective of the campaign is to get all manufacturers to remove plastic from period products, while also making sure there are reusable and plastic-free options available in supermarkets.
Recently, Daish has been meeting with retailers like Boots to discuss changes they can make to their period products. “We are committed to ensuring our Boots own brand range of period products are the most sustainable they can be, whilst keeping them at an affordable price for our customers (from 75p),” Boots told Daish. “We will continue to work on developments in this area and plan to launch some of these initiatives in the next 12 months.” Boots also announced they’ll be introducing a “Do not flush” logo, which will be printed on the front of all menstrual product packaging. Mashable has reached out to Boots for comment.
Meanwhile, Daish has also requested a meeting with the CEO of Morrisons’ supermarket.
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NEWS: The meeting with @bootsuk went well, they responded to the campaign positively and were very receptive to my concerns and suggestions. They spoke about the changes that they are looking to make and although I can’t share them all, here are a few I can! 👇 1) “We are committed to ensuring our Boots own brand range of period products are the most sustainable they can be, whilst keeping them at an affordable price for our customers (from 75p). We will continue to work on developments in this area and plan to launch some of these initiatives in the next 12 months.” 2) “In our continued search to offer sustainable alternatives, we are working with a number of organisations, including Forum for the Future, WRAP and INCPEN, to make sure we fully understand the impact of the decisions we make. In this way we ensure that we are doing the right thing, not just for plastic, but for the environment as a whole.” 3) “We are also committed to launching more sustainable formats in the Boots brand which we are working on at the moment. We really want to ensure we are offering something affordable, with the right information/education that offers people a great alternative.” In addition, they have shared some points below from their development plan: – Introducing ‘Do not flush’ logo on to the front of all Femcare packaging and adding to the packaging where technically possible. – Reducing/removing plastic on packaging where possible. – Reviewing plastic applicator tampons with a view to update to something more sustainable or remove from the range. – Investigating more sustainable products at affordable prices. You can also find out more in the latest campaign update! #EndPeriodPlastic #PlasticFreeJuly
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“Before the petition started there were no options available in supermarkets, now a range of supermarkets and retailers’ stock eco-friendly period products and reusables in-store,” said Daish. “This importantly gives customers a choice and much needed access to alternatives.”
Daish has been overwhelmed by the amount of encouragement she’s received from supporters and organisations.
“I could not have hoped for a better response which continues to empower me to break the plastic cycle, period,” she said.