Published: 17 January 2019 at 13:09
Almost a third of people unaware of plastic hidden in menstrual products – study
New research indicates that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the amount of plastic contained in commonly-used menstrual products.
The study, published in the journal Sustainability, was led by Elizabeth Peberdy of Anglia Ruskin University, who examined levels of awareness and people’s attitudes towards the environmental impact of these products.
The study, which used face-to-face focus groups and an online survey of 300 people, found that many participants were shocked at the amount of plastic in commonly-used disposable menstrual products. Almost a third of those surveyed were not aware that tampons contained plastic and 20% of people believed that it is okay to flush tampons.
Tampons are the most commonly used menstrual product in Western Europe and the US, with women using an average of 11,000 during their lifetime. Many disposable products are flushed after use, which can lead to plastics contaminating ocean ecosystems.
Plastic tampon applicators are commonly found on beaches and even inside the stomachs of dead seabirds. They can also play a part in another set of problems. Slowly, with the presence of light, they can break down into smaller fragments. Microplastics, small pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size, are now found in even the most remote marine environments.
The study also found that people who expressed greater awareness of plastic pollution were also far more likely to use organic pads and tampons, menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads, rather than disposable non-organic products.
Lead author Elizabeth Peberdy, who carried out the work as part of her Masters Degree in Sustainability at Anglia Ruskin University, said:
Professor Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University and a co-author on the paper, said: