What is plastic-free July and why is it important? Join us in taking up the challenge this month and find out how you can help the environment. 

Ruth in Malawi sews reusable, plastic-free period pads for her local community.
Ruth in Malawi sews reusable, plastic-free period pads for her local community.

This plastic-free July we are shining the spotlight on the environmental harm caused by the consumption of single-use plastic in our daily lives. ActionAid is always looking to find sustainable solutions wherever it works. One of the ways we do this is by supporting women and girls to make their own reusable, fabric sanitary pads. 

What is plastic-free July and when is it?

Plastic-free July is a month-long campaign during which millions of people around the world take the challenge to reduce their use of single-use plastics such as plastic bags, takeaway containers and plastic cutlery.

The challenge is taking place till the end of this month, 31st July. 

Why is plastic-free July important?

Single-use plastics such as those found in sanitary pads, nappies, plastic bags and straws break down into micro plastics but never completely biodegrade.

These small plastics end up in our landfills and in our oceans where animals and fish can mistake them for food or become caught in it.

Plastic production also emits large amounts of greenhouse gases which can cause air pollution.

Furthermore, disposal of sanitary pads such as wrapping them in plastic bags or flushing them down the toilet can add more plastic to the landfills and end up in the environment.

  • Conventional disposable sanitary pads are made of 90% plastic.1
  • Tampons have at least 6% plastic.2
  • It is estimated a pack of sanitary pads is the equivalent of 4 plastic bags.3
  • Approximately 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every day.3
  • One conventional sanitary pad takes around 500 years to break down.3

Where does ActionAid come in?

Where possible ActionAid looks for eco-friendly and sustainable options in our work throughout the world.

For example, in some communities in Malawi, we are training women to make reusable period pads out of cloth. We provide women with sewing machines and teach them in skills needed to cut and sew fabric into sanitary pads.

Not only does this provide a continuous supply of period pads for women and girls in the community, it also helps protect the environment.

How you can help

1. Try your hand at making your own reusable, fabric sanitary pads. We have created a how-to guide that takes you through simple steps to make your very own cloth period pad.


2. If you have to use disposable period pads explore plastic-free ones such as those made by our partner Etica. They are biodegradable and compostible.


3. Don't flush period pads or tampons down the toilet and help keep our oceans clean. 


4. Donate to help end period poverty and help us fund projects around the world that help women make their own reusable period pads.




  • 1. https://www.wen.org.uk/aboutenvironmenstrual
  • 2. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/plastics/plastic-periods-menstrual-products-and-plastic-pollution
  • 3. a. b. c. https://www.natracare.com/blog/turning-the-tide-on-plastic-period-waste/