21 Oct 2019

Period poverty: reusable sanitary products handed out in Canterbury schools

4:16 pm on 21 October 2019

The Timaru District Council has trialled New Zealand's first programme to promote reusable sanitary products in schools.

Young woman hand holding menstrual cup. Selective focus and shallow DOF

Concern about girls missing out on school because they can't afford tampons or pads has prompted an initiative using menstrual cups that are cheaper and environmentally friendly. Photo: 123RF

The council's waste minimisation manager, Ruth Clarke, said they started the programme because they heard from local schools that many girls stay home from school because they could not afford tampons or pads.

Ms Clarke said each year tampons add around 5000 tonnes of waste to the country's landfills -the waste does not generally break down.

She said the programme aimed to encourage young women away from using single-use and disposable menstruation products, and towards more sustainable, cost-effective options.

The programme involved presentations at 27 schools and the provision of waste-free period packs to each school's health department.

The packs included 20 reusable menstrual cups, and information about making reusable pads.

Ms Clarke said they estimate that the project will benefit around 12,000 young women in Canterbury by informing them of choices for using reusable menstruation products, which could save significant money.

"For example, the market price of a menstrual cup is around $40 but it lasts on average 10 years."

Ms Clarke said the programme had been very well received by students and teachers, and they have had interest from schools to repeat the presentation and to expand it to primary schools.

She said they are now looking at repeating the seminars every three years.

The project was funded by $12,000 from the Canterbury Waste Joint Committee.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs