If there is one issue at the intersection of health, environment, and people’s empowerment, that issue is menstruation.” – Larissa Copello, Packaging & Reuse Policy Officer at Zero Waste Europe

The conventional menstrual products being sold on the EU market (and globally):

  • Are single-use and made of 90% plastic, largely contributing to waste generation and marine litter (most of these products end up incinerated, landfilled, or littered, leading to serious environmental impacts);
  • Contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals which are known to be endocrine-disrupting substances linked to heart diseases, infertility, and cancer, thus harming menstruators’ health); and
  • Are not accessible to everyone that needs them (one in five women cannot afford basic single-use menstrual products in the EU, contributing to menstrual poverty).

They are also a social justice issue, as the cheapest single-use menstrual product options are often those with the most potential to damage our health and planet – and people with the least economic power have the greatest exposure to these dangerous products.

This is an issue that affects (at least) half of the world population. Although better alternatives for menstrual products – such as reusable products (e.g. period pants and cups) as well as toxic-free and plastic-free products – have existed for decades, the total population that knows about them or has access to them is still a minority. This is due to many factors, including: 

  • Period taboo (current societal structures which perpetuate a taboo around menstruation);
  • misinformation and lack of education (because of the taboo mentioned above, education and information on this subject is not encouraged); 
  • Lack of interest from multinational companies (single-use plastic products are cheaper than reusable and plastic-free ones);
  • unavailability (reusable and plastic-free menstrual products are generally harder to find, and are particularly less available in mainstream retailers, such as supermarkets and local commerce); and,
  • Lack of accessibility (menstrual products are also not economically accessible to many of the people that need them).

ZWE works at the EU and national level, together with its members and the BFFP movement, to make eco-friendly, toxic-free and plastic-free products readily available for menstruators.