BloodySuccess or BloodyShame: what plastic-free period products can be found in stores in the UK?

City to Sea launched a retailer campaign, calling on the public to be period detectives on their highstreets! People are invited to submit photos or videos of what plastic-free period products they find in their local supermarkets, using the hashtag a #BloodySuccess if they find plastic-free period products, or a #BloodyShame if they don’t.

We think plastic-free period products should be available to everyone, wherever you live, wherever you shop. We want to get as many people as possible to participate in this campaign over Environmenstrual Week and would really appreciate your support in mobilising the public! Digital toolkit here:

  • If you find plastic-free products ? in your supermarket. Upload a picture or video clip of your findings, tagging @citytosea_, the supermarket and using the hashtag #BloodyBrilliant! #PlasticFreePeriods
  • If you don’t find any plastic-free options ☹ Upload a picture or video clip of you, calling out the supermarket and the using the hashtag #BloodyShame!. #PlasticFreePeriods

City to Sea have joined forces with leading ocean sportswomen to lift the lid on a bloody secret on our high streets. During Environmenstrual Week starting on the 12th October, surfer and Love Island star Laura Crane, record-breaking paddleboarder Cal Major, world-record holding free-diver Tanya Streeter and cold-water swimmer Sophie Hellyer, are championing a new campaign to raise awareness of the hidden plastics in period products.

They are demanding retailers provide people with a choice when it comes to what they put in their bodies every month. The ask is for supermarkets and retailers to stock plastic-free or reusable menstrual products in every supermarket and on every high street.

Although most of the UK’s largest supermarkets (including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose) signed up to support the UK Plastics Pact – an industry-wide initiative which says it aims to reduce avoidable plastic waste – the reality on the high street and in our supermarkets is very different and we are now saying enough is enough!

Very few supermarkets stock plastic-free period products and it is a complete lottery as to which stores stock what product. A consumer could easily turn up at a major supermarket or retailer and find that whilst they have one product such as plastic-free tampons, they don’t have pads, cups or period pants. Which often forces women to buy period products containing plastic. Lidl and Morrisons don’t provide ANY plastic-free options, and NONE of the others provide a full range across all their stores. 

A staggering 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used in the UK every year with most of them containing single-use plastic in some form. A ‘conventional’ pack of disposable menstrual pads contains around the same amount of plastic as five carrier bags. Tampons also contain a plastic weave. A reported 50% of these are flushed, creating sewer blockages and ending up as pollution on our beaches or in our ocean. As we are all learning, this plastic pollution kills marine life and makes its way into our food chain in the form of microplastics.

People who menstruate are often forced to purchase single-use plastic whether they want to or not. Almost half of British people with periods purchase their products from supermarkets. Those who haven’t switched to #PlasticFreePeriods say that their main barrier was the lack of availability of plastic-free products where they shop (City to Sea survey, 2019).

We think this is wrong for two reasons:

  1. We should have the choice to have periods without using single-use plastic.
  2. Period products are consistently in the top 5 plastic items found polluting our beaches. More than coffee cups, plastic cutlery and carrier bags.

As part of Environmenstrual Week, City to Sea have launched the campaign calling on retailers in the UK to increase their range and offer plastic free alternatives in all stores.  We want to know which retailers stock plastic free alternatives, and which don’t.  We want them to know we’re watching, and we want a choice.

City to Sea are asking consumers to join them by becoming ‘not-so-secret shoppers’ by visiting a local supermarket to find out if they stock plastic-free or reusable period products and to then share their findings on social media using the #bloodysuccess if they do have products and #bloodyshame if they don’t, whilst also tagging in the supermarket or retailer so they know consumers are on to them and are demanding more choice. 

Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea said: “We want highlight and ultimately stop hidden plastics in period products. They’re totally unnecessary and choking our oceans and yet many people have absolutely no idea that the products they put in their bodies – and potentially flush – contain plastic. We’re now calling on people to join us in telling manufacturers and retailers to stop the tide of period plastic and make it easier for people to have #PlasticFreePeriods.”

Plastic Free Periods campaign ambassador and Love Island star, Laura Crane, says, “The ocean and my body have been there for me since I can remember and now it’s time for me to be there for them! That’s why I have chosen to back this campaign and say NO to single use period products. FOREVER!”

There are changes to be celebrated on the high street; this past year alone has seen various retailers add brands such as; Hey Girls, Bloom & Nora, DAME, Natracare, TOTM, Mooncup and Flux Undies to their shelves.

  • Sainsbury’s switched its own-brand applicators to cardboard and stock a cup and plastic-free tampons and pads in some stores.
  • Waitrose stocks menstrual cups, DAME reusable applicators and plastic-free tampons and pads across many of its stores.
  • Tesco stocks plastic-free TOTM disposable pads, plastic-free tampons and reusable cups in many of its larger stores.
  • ASDA’s own-brand applicator tampons contain cardboard applicators and they stock Hey Girls cups in all of their Scottish stores plus some of their larger stores in the rest of the UK.

However, people who use menstrual products have no guarantee which stores have plastic free alternatives available. It should be standard in all shops where period products are available.

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