The landmark change has been celebrated by environmental campaigner Ella Daish, who, since April 2019, has been calling on UK governments to tackle period poverty and the plastic crisis head-on by spending funding on eco-friendly period products
In 2020, you might be forgiven for thinking that period poverty is scarce in the UK.
But you'd also be mistaken - as one in 7 women struggle to afford period products. Lockdown has posed even more difficulty for women trying to access menstrual products, with Wateraid estimating that 54% of British women aged 18 to 55 have experienced increased challenges in managing their periods.
It's clear that action needs to be taken to provide better access to period products. But with menstrual products (which are 90% plastic) contributing to 200,000 tonnes of landfill waste in the UK each year, this is a problem that can only be tackled sustainably.
Enter Ella Daish. Since launching her campaign to #EndPeriodPlastic in February 2018, Ella has been calling on governments and local authorities in the UK to fight period poverty and the plastic crisis by spending funding on eco-friendly period products.
At Marie Claire, we're actively supporting Ella's powerful #EndPeriodPlastic campaign, with the environmentalist telling us of her inspiration behind the movement back in July:
'Once on my period, I noticed the amount of plastic waste I was generating during just one menstrual cycle. I went to my local supermarket to buy an eco-friendly alternative, and there were none. I ordered online, but it stayed with me that if small companies could make them then so could big brands stocked in supermarkets. That’s why I launched the petition for change.'
And her work is paying off. In a landmark decision, the Welsh government has stipulated that 50% of all period poverty funding must be spent on eco-friendly products.
The life and potentially planet-changing decision was made at the Welsh Governments period dignity roundtable, which was attended by Ella and headed up by Jane Hunt MS.
As well as this, local authorities in Wales (the Bridgend, Cardiff and Monmouthshire councils respectively) have committed to spending all their period poverty funding, which makes menstrual products freely available at schools, on eco-friendly products.
The funding is set to provide girls in schools with a mixture of eco-friendly tampons, pads and reusables like menstrual cups, cloth pads and period plants.
The move follows the same action taken by Caerphilly Council, who became the first local authority in the UK to take this step back in September 2019.
Speaking of the government's commitment to an eco-friendly solution, Ella said: 'I'm super proud of these incredible decisions that have been made and to have played a part in making it happen. This landmark first to spend 50% of funding on eco-products is a massive step for a government to take, it is progressive and will have far-reaching positive impacts.'
'Welsh Government and Bridgend, Cardiff, and Monmouthshire councils have shown fantastic leadership by listening and bringing sustainability to the forefront in decision making. This shows the change that can happen, and we need more governments and councils to take note and follow in their footsteps.'
Cllr Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Neighbourhood Services in Monmouthshire Council said: 'It has been great to work with environmental activist Ella Daish to better understand the impact of period products on the environment, and the importance of spending our period dignity grant in the most eco-friendly and sustainable way we can.'
Ella added: 'Period poverty should not be happening anywhere on Earth in 2020 and no one should miss out on their education or be discriminated against because of their natural cycle. Making period products freely available for those who need them is the right thing to do, but we need to consider the long-term environmental impacts this much-needed funding is spent on.
We know the impact of plastic on the environment and that eco-friendly products are better for people and the planet, which is why I have been calling on governments and local authorities to spend their funding sustainably.'
To join the fight to make all menstrual products free, sign Ella's petition
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Niamh McCollum is Features Assistant at Marie Claire UK, and specialises in entertainment, female empowerment, mental health, social development and careers. Tackling both news and features, she's covered everything from the rise of feminist audio porn platforms to the latest campaigns protecting human rights.
Niamh has also contributed to our Women Who Win series by interviewing ridiculously inspiring females, including forensic scientist Ruth Morgan, Labour MP Stella Creasy and ITV’s former Home Affairs Editor Jennifer Nadel.
Niamh studied Law in Trinity College Dublin. It was after enrolling in a Law & Literature class on her year abroad in Toronto that her love of writing was reignited. In no particular order, her big likes are Caleb Followill, hoops, red wine, sea swimming, shakshuka and long train journeys.
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