Plastic menstrual products and packaging produce more than 200,000 tonnes of waste annually. What’s more, they can can take up to 800 years to decompose, according to the Global Citizen, an international advocacy organization working to fight extreme poverty.
In response to the surge of menstrual products destined to reach landfills, Yanique Brandford, the founder of a non-profit called Help a Girl Out (HAGO), launched the 5,000 Reusables Project in 2021 to sustainably address period poverty.
“I started this project because I realized funnelling disposable menstrual products into the issue of period poverty is a band-aid solution that doesn’t last very long,” she said.
“I think people should care about the 5,000 Reusables Project because it is a concrete solution.”
Most disposable menstrual products are made up of 90 per cent plastic, according to a study from the London Assembly, a governmental body that oversees the mayor’s operations. The study says this means “the average menstruator throws away up to 200,000 kilograms of menstrual products in a lifetime.” HAGO is working to change that.
After winning funding from the Toronto Pearson’s Propeller Project and with the help of 125 volunteers across Canada, HAGO sewed 5,000 reusable pads. These reusable pads were quality checked, packaged and distributed to 1,000 people in low-income housing and refugee centres across Canada in 2021.
Last year, the project diverted 540,000 single-use menstrual products from landfills.
Lauren Ott, the chief kits officer at Kits for a Cause, a charitable partner with HAGO, said that the 5,000 Reusables Project has received widespread support from the community.
“We’ve been able to watch her (Yanique Brandford) grow something that started out very small and now give back on a much greater level,” Ott said.
HAGO started the #CallItWhatItIs campaign Feb. 2 to get rid of the stigma attached to periods and raise $15,000 to be able to continue the 5,000 Reusables Project this year.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said 5,000 menstrual pads from the Reusables Project were distributed in Toronto. In fact, the project distributed 5,000 menstrual pads throughout Canada.