Six million. That’s the number of people of menstruating age in Australia and New Zealand. And with each using anywhere from 1,000-16,000 disposable menstrual products – much of which contain plastic, not to mention plastic packaging – that’s a whole lot of plastic waste ending up in landfills and polluting our oceans.
And it’s the horrifying amount of plastic waste that has sparked the launch of the Sustainable Period Project, an initiative that aims to support the education of young people in sustainable sanitary alternatives. Founded by the Australian and NZ team at menstrual cup brand Lunette, the project has attracted the support of some of Australia and New Zealand’s most recognisable sustainable menstrual companies including Modibodi, TOM Organic, Natracare, Organ(y)c, and multiple modern cloth pad stores. Together, these organisations are changing attitudes and practices about menstruation and exposing young people to sustainable alternatives such as reusable menstrual cups that can last up to 10 years.
“When we first started selling Lunette menstrual cups in 2008 we found that we’d get the occasional request from teachers for ‘sample cups’ to show their students,” explains Carol and Elizabeth Morris, the sisters who distribute the Lunette menstrual cup across Australia.
“This was manageable for a while but from around 2015 the requests were almost weekly – teachers asking for samples to show students, students asking for samples to take in to show classmates and teachers, and health workers asking for samples for their menstrual health education kits. We knew we had to start something big, something no-one had thought of before – and the Sustainable Period Project was born.”
The project’s mission is to have all menstruating people in Australia and NZ under the age of 25 know about sustainable sanitary options by 2025. It aims to achieve this by providing each school in Australia and New Zealand a ‘Resource Kit’ that contains lessons on sustainable period practices and includes a sample of biodegradable pads, cloth pad, period underpants and menstrual cups.
Launched in the first school term in February 2018, 2066 resource kits have been sent to Australian high schools. This is in addition to many family planning clinics, adolescent health nurses and general menstrual educators who have also received resource kits.
“We completed the distribution of kits to every high school in Australia in Term 4 2019, and New Zealand will finish its high schools by Term 2 2020. Then we need to start distributing kits to Primary Schools, because menstrual education starts in years 5 and 6. A massive undertaking but we are hoping to have primary schools who would like a kit send in their request by June 2021 so we can post them out.”
To track its progress, the pair sent out an online survey to all the schools that received a kit in 2018 and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Results of the survey showed that 75% of the recipients had already used their kits to educate a group. Even better? 70% of students had ‘no prior knowledge’ about sustainable menstrual products and thanks to the Sustainable Period Project, now they do!
According to Lunette Australia, of the six-million menstruating people in Australia and NZ, roughly 500,000 use menstrual cups – a number that is steadily increasing as menstrual cups become more mainstream.
The Sustainable Period Project aims to provide free resource kits to all secondary schools across Australia and New Zealand. For more information visit SustainablePeriodProject.org.
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Cover image by Lunette.