I hate paper straws. Not just because they ruin G&Ts, but because they represent the biggest fallacy of tackling the plastics crisis: that we just need to swap out bad materials for good ones.
The truth is, no material is good or bad, it’s how we use them that matters. Ironically, paper straws are so ineffective that most bars have gone back to using no straws at all. Which begs the question: why did we all get carried away with straws in the first place?
The problem with the status quo is that, if it’s all you’ve ever known, you can ascribe a sort of permanence to it. You start to believe it has to be that way. The period industry, for example, has gone unchecked for decades.
By design, between 1.5 to 2 billion (predominantly plastic) period products are flushed down Britain’s toilets every year. Period products are essential, but millions of tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean is not.
Between 1.5 to 2 billion (predominantly plastic) period products are flushed down Britain’s toilets every year.
Recycling should be the last resort
New ideas have sporadically graced the menstruation market and challenged the status quo, but none have been able to make a significant dent. This proves that we need to not only redesign things, but redesign things better.
For obvious reasons, disposable period products are not recyclable. Even if they were, recycling should always be a last resort when designing sustainable products. Reducing, reusing and reimagining should all come before recycling in the designer’s mind.
At DAME, the company I co-founded, those first three ‘R’s have become our mantra. For example, when looking for recycled packaging to ship our products in, we realised we could do one better, and just reuse another company’s unwanted packaging. That’s why our packaging is not ours, it’s someone else’s. Or at least it used to be.
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Reusable period products can be cool
The great joy of a product that gets used again and again, is that you can invest more in superior quality and design. Design means desirability. Desirability means ownership. Ownership means keepability. When Emma Watson (name drop) pulled her DAME reusable applicator out in an interview with Vogue, it was validation that we may have even made a period product cool.
There is absolutely no technical barrier to replacing most single-use products. Incumbents who refuse to reimagine how they meet customers’ needs are wilfully polluting the world for profit. The challenge for innovators is to use humanity’s only limitless resource, our imagination, to meet those needs in a way that makes the old model redundant.