Programme helps promote waste-free periods

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Published: 21 Oct 2019

Feedback from a Timaru District Council-led project to help promote waste free periods has shown that people are looking for sustainable alternatives to tampons and sanitary pads.

The programme, the first of its kind in New Zealand, aims to encourage behaviour change away from using single-use and disposable menstruation products to more sustainable, and cost effective, options

It was made possible through $12,000 funding from the Canterbury Waste Joint Committee.

Council Waste Minimisation Manager, Ruth Clarke, said that the programme involved delivering presentations to 27 schools in the Canterbury region, backed up with the provision of Waste Free Period packs to each school’s health department.

“These packs included 20 reusable menstrual cups as giveaways to each school and brochures for each girl with information on menstrual cups and information for making reusable pads,” said Ruth.

“We have heard from our local schools that many girls miss schools because they could not afford tampons or pads, and have to stay at home during their periods. That’s why we started the programme.”

According to a KidsCan Survey from 2018, almost a quarter of responded New Zealand women have missed school or work because they have been unable to afford sanitary items.

“We estimate the project will benefit around 12,000 young women in Canterbury informing them of choices for using reusable menstruation products, which can save significant money.

“For example, the market price of a menstrual cup is around $40 but it lasts on average 10 years.

“There are around 1.2 million women of menstrual age in New Zealand, who use around 350 million tampons per year, not including single use sanitary hand towels.

“This equates to around 5,000 tonnes of waste being sent to landfills every year that do not generally break down in landfills.

“We hope this project will raise people’s awareness and encourage behaviour changes, which can help improve resource efficiency by reducing waste to landfill.

“It may also have significant secondary social and economic outcomes with potential improved public health and school attendance.

“There was significant enthusiasm from the students and teachers who took part in the project, feedback indicated that they welcomed the opportunity to discuss this issue.”

Following the successful trial this year, there are plans to hold the seminars every three years to cover all girls who will be at high school over the next 12 years.

Last updated: 24 Feb 2021