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No more shame: a call for the EU and Member States to adopt an ambitious strategy on single-use menstrual products, nappies and wet wipes

No more shame: Call on the European Union and Member States to adopt an ambitious strategy for disposable menstrual products, diapers and wipes

For immediate release: Brussels, February 12, 2020

Disposable menstrual products, diapers and wet wipes will have serious environmental, economic and social impacts throughout their entire life cycle (from the production stage to the end of their useful life). A pioneering study on the environmental and economic impact of disposable menstrual products, baby diapers and wipes shows that in the 28 EU countries, the current waste generation of disposable menstrual products, baby diapers and wipes is about 7,832,000 tons. 2017 only. These wastes are currently not collected and recycled separately, and end up in incineration facilities (13%), landfills (87%) or discarded into the environment.

The study also revealed the "hidden" costs behind the waste of menstruation, baby diapers and wipes. Estimates indicate that the annual cost of removing sewage debris from the pipeline in the EU (due to insufficient flushing of disposable menstrual products and wipes) is equivalent to 50 to 1 billion euros. The cost impact on consumers is also emphasized: by switching to menstrual cups instead of disposable tampons or sanitary napkins, consumers can save 18 to 119 euros per person per year, and lifetime savings of more than 4,400 euros.

Only by providing sufficient support for reusable models and post-consumer recycling can it be possible to realize the true circular economy envisioned by the European Union. In order to reduce the waste generated by these products and realize the transition to a circular economy, a series of specific actions and measures have been proposed in the follow-up study of existing measures and policy recommendations to minimize the impact of menstrual products, diapers and diapers. Wet wipes are all over Europe.

The policy brief also emphasized such measures. We call on the European Commission to adopt a strategy to expand the reusable market for menstrual products, diapers and wipes, while ensuring that single-use equivalents are collected separately and effectively recycled. Some key recommendations include setting a 30% reuse target by 2030 and increasing to 60% by 2040, combined with a separate collection target to increase the recovery rate of remaining disposable menstrual products, wet wipes and diapers to 40%. In 2025, it will be 70% by 2030 and 90% by 2040.

Economic incentives, such as the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program and the ecological adjustment of costs, should also be one of the cornerstones of the strategy, by implementing local washing systems to help fund the transition from a single-use system to a reusable system. For example, reusable diapers.

"Within the current EU legal framework, there are no specific regulations for the waste management (collection, treatment and final disposal) of these products, and there are no legal measures to support an effective recycling system-such as reusable models and closed-loop recycling processes. In order to achieve the EU's circular economy goals, a legal framework for these products needs to be established to ensure that only safe, circular and sustainable products are placed on the market, while allowing the effective collection and recycling of disposable products. "Larissa, European zero-waste consumer and production activist Copello commented.

"Recently, people have become more aware of the negative impact of the current production and consumption patterns of disposable plastics, but so far, the serious impact of disposable menstrual products, diapers and wipes on the environment and the economy has not been put on the table. On top. In addition to accusing consumers of using these products, from an environmental and gender perspective, implementing policies to regulate these products and promote reusable and non-toxic solutions is critical to making progress towards a zero-waste society." Commented Alba Cabrera, Rezero Research Manager.



Download policy brief

Download the study on environmental and economic impact

Download the study of legal measures

Media Contact:

Larissa Copello, consumer and production activist, Zero Waste Europe

Alba Cabrera, Research Manager, Rezero

Agnese Marcon, European Zero Waste Communications Coordinator +32 (0) 456 078 038

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