22 Oct 2021

Written by

Laia Guardiola and Larissa Copello

Catalan government goes one step further in fighting period poverty

Consumption & ProductionRezero

Last year, we witnessed the great news that Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products free for all, with the approval of the Period Products Bill introduced by Monica Lennon, MSP on 23 April 2019.

This past September, the President of the Catalan government, Pere Aragonés, went one step further as he announced the distribution of free menstrual products, especially reusable, to tackle period poverty. The products will be distributed during the current academic year among public education centres as well as other groups with women in vulnerable situations. According to Aragonés, they will prioritise accessibility to reusable products like the menstrual cup due to their positive impact on the economy, health, and the environment. Moreover, the distribution of reusable products will be accompanied by training and advising actions to promote menstrual education among citizens.

Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products, menstrual hygiene and sanitation infrastructure, as well as menstrual education. According to statistics, one in five menstruators cannot afford basic menstrual products in the EU. Period poverty undermines the dignity, health, and overall social status of people who menstruate around the world.

With this announcement, the current government in charge in Catalonia gave continuity to their first public commitment, made early this year, when they promised to put an end to menstrual poverty through menstrual education programs and giving priority to environmentally friendly products.

In fact, in the EU28, nearly 50 billion units of single-use menstrual products were consumed in 2017, meaning an annual generation of about 590,000 tonnes of waste. But reusable menstrual products are not only better for the environment, but also a great instrument to tackle period poverty, as they are economically beneficial in the long-term. The same study showcases that using a reusable menstrual product could generate annual savings of between €18 to €199 per person, with lifetime savings that could exceed €4,400. 

Nevertheless, environmental and social justice go hand and hand, and tackling period poverty requires a systemic change. That means addressing the persisting taboos and stigma around periods; ensuring the access of menstrual hygiene and sanitation infrastructure to menstruators; and guaranteeing proper education on the issue.

Rezero, the Catalan foundation for waste prevention and responsible consumption, sees the new measure proposed by the Catalan Government as a win-win solution for both the environment and menstruators: “This announcement is a strong step towards human rights and environmental protection. Through our New Period campaign, we aim to raise awareness around the environmental, health and social impacts of single-use menstrual products and to showcase the benefits of and promote the accessibility to reusable menstrual options among the community “ said Laia Guardiola, Environmentalist campaigner at Rezero.

Rezero is part of a European Period Power campaign of 15+ NGOs calling for access to safe, fair, and sustainable menstrual products to everyone.

 Rezero will be assisting the Catalan government in the new menstrual planning, asking for:

  • Menstrual education programs in educational centres;
  • Tax reduction or elimination on reusable menstrual products, similar to the one adopted in the UK;
  • A legal obligation for manufacturers of menstrual products to phase out hazardous chemicals and eliminate the use of toxins in their products, as well as to disclose the ingredients list of their products;
  • Free products to be made accessible to those in need; and
  • Reuse targets to scale up reusable menstrual products in the market.