Flushed with success

In a partnership between City to Sea and Southern Water, thousands of school children in the UK have been taught about the wide range of period products now available & why the products should never be flushed down the loo.

An award-winning education programme, Rethink Periods, has reached thousands of pupils across hundreds of schools a year after its launch.  

The Rethink Periods programme run by the environmental not-for-profit, City to Sea, is a free, schools training programme updating mainstream period education in primary and secondary schools. It offers unbiased training and materials on all period care products available and explores the social and environmental context that periods sit in.  

Part of the PSHE accredited programme highlights the environmental damage caused by flushing menstrual products. Many people don’t realise how much plastic is embedded into the products, not just the outer packaging. For example, a big-brand pack of 14 menstrual pads contains the same amount of plastic as 5 carrier bags

Pupils also learn that period products block our sewer pipes, creating overflow that escapes into our rivers and seas. Currently, around 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads and 700,000 panty liners are flushed every single day here in the UK! 

This flushing of products costs water companies around £100 million every year as they deal with the resulting blockages.  

An early pilot of the programme found that: 

  • 72% of teachers had previously thought that flushing tampons down the toilet was okay 
  • Students were 25% less likely to use disposable tampons and 50% less likely to use disposable pads after the unbiased lessons.  
  • Students were four times more likely to try  plastic-free disposables after the unbiased lessons and three times more likely to try  menstrual cups. 

Commenting Jasmine Tribe, Rethink Periods Trainer at City to Sea said,  

“Historically period education has been monopolised by big-brands, only talking about the products that they sell. We don’t think this is fair – everyone has different needs, different bodies, different lifestyles and financial means. We believe that every child should receive unbiased, clear and accessible information about periods and period products so they can make a decision about what is right for them and their bodies.”  

A spokesperson from Southern Water added,  

“Southern Water is proud to partner with City to Sea for the hugely successful Rethink Periods programme. This work equips and empowers young people to make informed decisions that are right for their bodies and for the planet. The impact of this work is clear and we are committed to working with City to Sea to scale this work up across the region so we can reach over 500 schools by 2022.”  


For further information or to arrange an interview please contact City to Sea’s Media Manager, Steve Hynd, on [email protected] or ring 07903569531.  

Notes to Editor 

1) Further information on the need for period education: 

- 1 in 4 young people in the UK didn’t know what to do when they first started their period. 
- Nearly half (48 per cent) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK are embarrassed by their periods. 
- 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period, of which 59% have made up a lie or an alternate excuse. 
- 37% of women could not correctly identify the definition of the menstrual cycle, in a multiple-choice question. 
- 52% of women think their knowledge gaps are preventing them from advocating for themselves in the doctor’s office. 

2) About City to Sea - City to Sea is a not-for-profit organisation, campaigning to stop plastic pollution at source. Their award-winning campaigns are tackling the single-use plastic items most found on our beaches and in our rivers and oceans by providing practical solutions and championing reuse over single-use.  

 City to Sea is behind the award-winning Plastic Free Periods campaign, the Refill Campaign, which has saved 100 million plastic bottles from entering our waste stream and #SwitchTheStick preventing over 478 tonnes of single-use, plastic-stemmed cotton buds from being produced each year.  https://www.citytosea.org.uk