Social enterprise Hey Girls launched an awareness campaign today at Portobello Beach, highlighting the environmental cost of flushing period products down the toilet.
It is estimated from a study conducted by the Journal of the Institution of Environmental Sciences that 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 period pads are flushed down the toilet every single day in the UK. Many of these items not only contribute to expensive sewer blockages but can also end up in the ocean,
In a first for period product manufacturers in the UK, Hey Girl’s organic, plastic free and disposable range of products now carry ‘do not flush’ warnings on their wrappers.
Celia Hodson, Founder Hey Girls said: “We’ve always viewed our packaging as a space to share more than just brand information, since our launch in 2018 we have carried the National Domestic Violence helpline number on the inside of our boxes; now we are introducing a ‘do not flush’ symbol on all of our individual product wrappers.
Far too many people simply do not realise that period products should NEVER be flushed down the loo and should always be disposed of responsibly. We hope that this step will not only raise awareness around the issue of period waste in our oceans, but also spur other bigger period product manufacturers to follow suit.”
Scottish Water on average attends 96 blockages every day aross the country, with 80% of blockages being caused by the wrong items being put into the sewer network at a cost of £6.5million annually. Marine Conservation Society data shows that 5.4 pieces of litter identified as menstrual waste are found per 100m of beach in Scotland.
Scott Fraser, Communities Manager at Scottish Water, said: ”Scotland’s beaches are beautiful and we want to do all we can to keep them that way. Flushing the wrong items can cause blockages and damage the sewers and ultimately the environment including rivers and oceans. We urge everyone to bin and not flush products like sanitary products, wipes and cotton wool. The only things which should go down the loo are the 3 Ps – pee, poo and (toilet) paper.”
Natural Environment Minister, Mairi Gougeon said: “The easing of lockdown restrictions following the coronavirus pandemic has prompted more people to re-engage with and enjoy Scotland’s outdoor spaces, including our beautiful beaches.
“We all want to enjoy our surroundings, not have it spoiled by litter, which pollutes our environment and harms wildlife as well as spoiling the view. That why it is so important – perhaps now more than ever – that we all take responsibility to tackle our throwaway culture and protect our environment.
“Many are familiar with the scourge of plastic bottles and cans washing up on our beaches, but the Don’t Rush To Flush campaign highlights the very real and significant impact that incorrect disposal of period products down toilets also has and I welcome this approach from Hey Girls to raise awareness of the issue.”
A a huge percentage of conventional period products also contain harmful and often hidden levels of plastic which can be ingested by sea life and will not break down naturally, only contributing further to the rising levels of plastic waste in the ocean.
The campaign coincides with the start of the Great British Beach Clean, taking place on beaches across the UK over the weekend. Last year at 146 co-ordinated events 1020 tampons, applicators, towels and panty liners were removed from beaches in one weekend alone.
Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society said: “During last year’s Great British Beach Clean in Scotland our volunteers found, on average, 5 items of menstrual plastic waste for every 100m of beach surveyed. No matter whether you live near or far from the coast, our actions have consequences on the ocean. We hope everyone will see the Do Not Flush message and take action so our volunteers will be seeing less of these items damaging our beaches and endangering our wildlife in the future.”
Hey Girls’ disposable products are biodegradable and are both free from plastic and any nasty chemical treatments. They recognise that a more sustainable solution to periods is vital, with period waste generating over 200,000 tonnes a year, Hey Girls also manufactures a range of eco-friendly reusable period products, from medical grade silicone menstrual cups to reusable period pants and pads.
Catherine Bozec, campaign manager of Zero Waste Scotland’s #TrialPeriod campaign to promote the use of reusable menstrual products, said: “Recent research by Zero Waste Scotland showed a promising 10% of people in Scotland are currently using reusable products and a further 76% said they would consider trialling at least one reusable alternative – the menstrual cup, period pants or washable cloth pads.
“We understand that sometimes reusables aren’t for everyone, and some people prefer to use a mix of reusable and disposable products to manage their period. That’s why we wholeheartedly back Hey Girls’ ‘don’t rush to flush’ message. It’s so important to keeping our environment pristine that we all do our bit and dispose of menstrual products responsibly.”
The #TrialPeriod campaign was supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Hey Girls products are available to buy online www.heygirls.co.uk and are in select ASDA, Scotmid, Co-op and Waitrose stores.