Shortage of tampons and pads leads to a rise in reusable menstrual products, and it could help us tackle period poverty

Kathryn Wheeler
By Kathryn Wheeler,
updated on May 28, 2020

Shortage of tampons and pads leads to a rise in reusable menstrual products, and it could help us tackle period poverty

One in 10 UK women have given up using tampons and sanitary towels, citing lockdown shortages as their motivation to switch to reusable products. But how can making eco choices help support those experiencing period poverty?

Fear and anxiety over a looming lockdown lead many people to stockpile, as protective measures first came into place in March this year. Among the toilet roll, pasta, and cleaning products, a shortage of sanitary products became a trend across UK supermarkets' shelves.

While stock levels now seem to be returning to normal, new research by intimate healthcare brand INTIMINA has found that one in 10 UK women have ditched single-use tampons and sanitary towels in favour of reusable options – with 80% citing the shortage as their motivation for making the choice.

The environmental impact of menstrual products is a conversation that we need to have – with plastic from packaging and the products themselves going on to sit in landfill for at least 500 years after use. But, with eco-friendly products often coming with a premium price-tag, at the centre of the move to more sustainable periods must be a consideration of poverty and the way it affects the choices we make.

INTIMINA's research comes in time for Menstrual Hygiene Day, a moment to raise awareness of the issue of period poverty and the way that it touches people around the world. And it's an urgent issue.

A 2018 study found that one in four women struggle to afford period products, with one in five low-income women and girls reporting missing work and school because of this – experiences which were, understandably, found linked to feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, and depression.

tampons and a menstrual cup

One in four women struggle to afford period products

So how can we begin to tackle the environmental impact of menstrual products while acknowledging the role that period poverty has to play when it comes to picking which products to buy?

The fact is, there isn’t an easy answer. While in the long-run, we might save money with a reusable menstrual cup, for many that intial spend is a luxury beyond reach. With that in mind, work on creating affordable reusable products – along with tackling taboos and dismantling stigma – is something that needs to be front and centre if we’re going to make a tangible, united effort to address environmental concerns.

But, if you are considering switching to a reusable options, INTIMINA has joined up with charity Freedom4Girls to donate £5 from the sale of every menstrual cup to their cause. Supporting women and girls in the UK and East Africa who are unable to afford safe, hygienic menstrual products, Freedom4Girls offers disposable tampons and towels, alongside environmentally-friendly and reusable options.

Wondering how else can you help tackle period poverty? Pick up an extra packet with your weekly shop and donate it to a food bank or a specialist hygiene bank. Beyond that, make the choice to buy from brands who give back, like INTIMINA – or Always, who have donated 28,782,432 pads since launching their #EndPeriodPoverty campaign in March 2018.

Things really do get that much easier when we talk, and period poverty is just one example of how awareness can lead to action. When we bring conversations about period poverty to light, we’re chipping away at the shame that can come with being caught short. By joining together to make the small choices that support our environment and each other, change is within our reach.

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