Over 10,000 school children across South West England and East Anglia have been taught about period products and why they should never be flushed down the loo.
Award-winning education programme Rethink Periods has reached thousands of pupils across the Interreg Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP) project area in the last eighteen months (see attached list).
The Rethink Periods programme, run by environmental not-for-profit organisation City to Sea and funded via the Environment Agency as a PPP partner, is a free schools training programme updating mainstream period education in primary and secondary schools.
It offers unbiased training and materials on all period care products available and explores the social and environmental context that periods sit in. Part of the PSHE (Personal Social Health Education) accredited programme highlights the environmental damage caused by flushing menstrual products.
Many people do not realise how much plastic is embedded into the products, not just the outer packaging. For example, a big-brand pack of 14 menstrual pads contains the same amount of plastic as five carrier bags.
Pupils also learn that period products block sewer pipes, creating overflow that escapes into our rivers and seas. Currently, around 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 panty liners are flushed every single day in the UK, costing water companies around £100 million every year as they deal with the resulting blockages.
An early pilot of the programme found that:
• 72% of teachers had previously thought that flushing tampons down the toilet was okay
• Students were 25% less likely to use disposable tampons and 50% less likely to use disposable pads after the unbiased lessons.
• Students were four times more likely to try Plastic Free Disposables after the unbiased lessons and three times more likely to try menstrual cups.
Sarah Martin, Environment Agency project lead, said:
“We are proud to have played a part in such a culturally and environmentally significant project informing young people about the hidden plastic in period products to help promote resuable and plastic-free period care as an alternative to brands we’re more familiar with. It has been very encouraging to have such a positive response to the training programme.”
Jo Taylor, Rethink Periods co-ordinator at City to Sea, said:
“Historically period education has been monopolised by big-brands only talking about the products that they sell. We don’t think this is fair – everyone has different needs, different bodies, different lifestyles, and financial means. We believe that every child should receive unbiased, clear, and accessible information about periods and period products so they can decide about what is right for them and their bodies.”
The initiative is one of many projects being funded by the three year cross channel Interreg PPP project – a partnership of 18 organisations which aims to identify and target plastic hotspots, embed behaviour change in local communities and businesses, and implement effective solutions and alternatives.
The project builds on Environment Agency goals and commitments outlined in its five year plan to create better places for people, wildlife and the environment.
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