People’s Design Lab workshop in Paris - Zero Waste France tackles menstrual protections

On December 17th 2016, Zero Waste France organised a People’s Design Lab workshop focused on menstrual protections : tampons, pads and the menstrual cup. These products were amongst the finalists of the People’s Design Lab vote and were chosen by Zero Waste France to further explore and tackle the important issues they present in terms of waste production. 

Among the participants were engaged citizens, as well as professionals involved in promoting and providing alternative feminine protections. The first part of the day was an introduction to the People’s Design Lab campaign, the products chosen for this workshop, a presentation of the environmental and health issues related to tampons and disposable menstrual pads, as well as an overview of the obstacles and opportunities on the political, institutional, and social level. This first part was followed by the shorts conferences given by professionals and representatives of brands invested in alternative and zero waste menstrual products : Api Napi, Dans Ma Culotte, Plim. 

The second part of the workshop involved a brainstorm session with a list of questions to identify : 

  • opportunities and arguments to tackle disposal menstrual protections : 

    • the lack of legal obligation for companies to indicate composition of pads and tampons  

    • study made by a consumer protection association that reveals pesticide residuals and other toxic substances (dioxins, aluminium) in famous branded pads and tampons, that are responsable for irritations, vaginal mycoses and other allergies (

    • scientific research led by a Dr Lina from University of Lyon on the causality between tampon composition and the Toxic Shock Syndrome

  • main obstacles and levers to promote zero waste menstrual protections : 

    • Little information and education (of teenagers and young women adults) on menstrual cycles and the variety of (safe) products that exist

    • Zero waste alternatives are beginning to develop (more brands that offer safe and ecological products) > Dans Ma Culotte, Lamazuna, Plim, 

    • Media : youtube videos (Sophie Riche : Cup ou pas cup), articles, other media coverage 

    • International Menstrual Day (May 28 of each year) 

After the brainstorm, participants had to think of one or several ideas of projects/actions to present to the group. Some of the propositions: 

  • Change your period > International sports day and race dedicated to healthy menstrual cycles and women, with the participation of famous women athletes that share testimonies and inform young women of safe and zero waste alternatives 

  • Superhero period > Fun and humoristic videos of women on their period with super powers, to break prejudices and misconceptions, and portray the natural and empowering aspect of periods. 

  • National and official website and application > with all the information on menstrual cycles and how to use the different products dedicated to informing women on the menstrual cycle, and presenting all of the products that exist 

  • Information campaign > school nurses and gynaecologists raise awareness in schools 

  • Animation tool kit > For women who want to convince and inform their friends and family, a kit with information and games to use and samples of menstrual cups and reusable pads. 

  • Scientific and/or professional seminar > organise a seminar on menstrual protections with scientists and experts to raise awareness and inform the professionals on health and environmental issues concerning disposal menstrual protections.

  • Tampax, what is your composition > Based on the petition released in 2015 asking Tampax to reveal the composition of their tampons, a Name and shame campaign against the big brands (Tampax, BB, etc.) to pressure them into releasing the composition list, and eventually change their production patterns.

The projects that were selected and developed furthermore were : 

  • ANIMATION TOOLKIT : The toolkit is destined for women who already use zero waste feminine protections and who want to encourage and convince their fellow women friends, colleagues, family members to adopt healthy and ecological alternatives. The kits will include be accessible online, with information on how to organize an informal gathering on this topic and the information and arguments to use in a fun manner. Games and quizzes will be created for the toolkit to share fun ways to raise awareness and talk about the health and environmental impacts of disposal menstrual protections. Samples will also be made available, by partner brands, to concretely show what a menstrual cup or reusable pad looks like, how it is used, and the different models that exist. The toolkit will be promoted by Zero Waste France and all of the Zero Waste groups, as well as other environmental and health NGOs. 

  • PUBLIC INFORMATION WEBSITE : The lack of information seems to be among the main obstacles in the choice and use of feminine protections. A public website on menstrual periods that would be created and managed by the health minister and government to be an official reference. It 

would contain all of the information on menstrual periods (what they are),  the different products that exist (their health and environmental impacts), as well as all of the latest scientific research (on menstrual cycles as well as on feminine protections). 

The workshop ended with an action plan on the next steps and roles of each participant to advance on theses two projects within the next months.