Sainsbury's has removed single-use plastic applicators from all of its own-brand tampon lines, as it strives to cut its packaging use and remove non-recyclable plastics from shelves.
The Women's Environment Network estimates that 200,000 tonnes of menstrual products and their packaging are wasted annually in the UK
The phase-out, revealed by the supermarket this weekend, is due to be completed across all UK stores and online by the end of August.
Sainsbury’s did not disclose how many plastic tampon applicators it sells but said the move would help it its efforts to “remove unnecessary plastic” from its offering.
The firm is notably striving to halve volumes of its own-brand packaging by 2020 – plastics and otherwise – against a 2005 baseline. It is also committed to the WRAP UK Plastics Pact ambition of ensuring that all own-brand plastic packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
"We are no longer producing an own-brand range of compact plastic tampon applicators," a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said.
"This is one of a range of steps we are taking to minimise our impact on the environment and remove unnecessary plastic."
Other moves taken by Sainsbury’s since it joined the UK Plastics Pact include phasing out single-use plastic bags from fruit, vegetable and bakery aisles and collaborating with Viridor, Tesco and Marks & Spencer (M&S), to introduce a solution for hard-to-recycle black plastic that places recycled content into food-grade packaging.
The supermarket has also vowed to remove black plastics from all own-brand lines by March 2020.
Around 4.3 billion single-use menstrual products are believed to be disposed of in the UK every year, with the majority of these items either containing or housed in plastic, according to City to Sea.
Amid a backdrop of increased public awareness of the environmental impact of single-use plastic, largely borne through exposés like Blue Planet 2 and BBC’s War on Plastics, campaign groups have been calling on businesses and governments to support a shift to plastic-free menstrual products.
Those on the market at present include the likes of reusable menstrual cups, which have been steadily growing in popularity over the past three years, and organic cotton tampons and plastic-free pads, which recently went on sale at Tesco.
Similarly, start-up DAME last week received backing from Sky’s Ocean Ventures fund to scale-up production of its plastic-free tampons and reusable applicators. The London-based brand makes its applicators from Sanipolymers – bio-based materials which purport to be antibacterial, anti-microbial and biodegradable.