Many tampons and sanitary towels contain a shocking amount of plastic, which is then disposed of and left to contaminate the environment, languishing in landfill and our oceans, for as long as 500 years.
One young woman campaigning to #EndPeriodPlastic is Ella Daish, a postwoman based in Cardiff, whose petition calling for menstrual products to be made without plastic has racked up 105k signatures so far.
"Some menstrual pads can contain up to four plastic bags worth of plastic, that's around 90% of each product," she points out on Change.org. "These products are constantly being produced and disposed of and they can be toxic to the environment. We need to stop them being harmful, and stop them having a permanent life on this planet."
Daish cites harrowing statistics: Each year the UK generates more than 200k tonnes of waste in the form of tampons, pads, panty-liners and their packaging; during one beach clean-up in 2016, the Marine Conservation Society found 20 tampons and sanitary items per 100 metres of shoreline; and the average woman will use 11k disposable menstrual products in her reproductive lifetime.
She is calling for all sanitary product companies and supermarkets to manufacture their menstrual pads, tampons and applicators, wrappers and packaging to be plastic-free and biodegradable.
However, not all women and girls in the UK can afford to ensure their sanitary products meet certain environmental credentials. More than 137,700 10 to 18-year-olds in the UK missed out on their education last year because of period poverty, and women around the world have to go without these basic items.
How to have a plastic-free period
If you're in a sound financial position and want to reduce the environmental impact of your period, Daish says the first step for anyone using single-use menstrual products is to switch to biodegradable versions. Following that, you can look into reusable options.
These brands make single-use and/or reusable sanitary products that are either completely plastic-free or contain less plastic than other tampons or pads. They're not available everywhere on the high street and tend to cost slightly more than big-name brands.
• Mooncup. This popular menstrual cup is made from soft medical-grade silicone and contains no plastic. It's reusable and at £21.99 has the potential to save you a huge amount of money if used long term.