Catalan pharmacies are handing out free reusable menstrual products

The Catalonia region of Spain has started providing free reusable menstrual cups, menstrual underwear and cloth sanitary pads at pharmacies, in one of the first initiatives of its kind in the world.

The program is part of a regional government initiative to reduce period poverty after a survey found that 44% of women using menstrual products in Catalonia could not afford their first choice product and 23% said they had had to reuse items that were designed for single use.

Limited availability of products – often due to cost, lack of laundry facilities or education – can lead girls and women to miss school or work and increases the risk of infection and toxic shock syndrome.

Ester Miralles, 55, a civil servant, said if men had periods the problem would have been tackled much sooner. β€œThis affects all women – those who can fortunately still afford it and those who cannot,” she said.

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Women can spend €2,500 on sanitary products during their lifetime, but opting for reusable products will reduce those costs to around €145, according to authorities.

The initiative started in the northeastern region on Monday and will benefit about 2.5 million people, who will be able to find the products at more than 3,300 pharmacies.

The measure is also intended to reduce the more than 9,000 tons of waste generated annually in Catalonia by used tampons and sanitary towels.

Helena Herranz, an 18-year-old student, said she was eager to try out reusable products. β€œWe use a lot of sanitary pads, a lot of tampons, a lot of material throughout our lives and they pollute a lot,” she added.

In 2020, Scotland became the first country to offer free sanitary products – but the Catalan government said this was the first time reusable menstrual products had been given away for free.

In 2022, Spain passed a law requiring menstrual products to be distributed for free in schools, prisons, women’s health care facilities and other public institutions.