In Jan. 2021, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that VAT would (finally) be scrapped on sanitary products. And though it was a major victory for campaigners who have fought tirelessly against the tampon tax, it has failed to include all menstrual products, including more sustainable options like period pants. A new petition, aimed by environmental scientist and WUKA founder Ruby Raut has been launched to change this.
A petition – which garnered over 18,000 signatures before closing on Jan. 20 – calls for period pants to be recognised as menstrual products, so they too can be exempt from the tampon tax. The founder of WUKA menstrual pants have highlighted that while cutting the tampon tax may go some way to tackle period poverty, it could have catastrophic consequences for the environment.
“As the country adapts to another national lockdown it is more important than ever to keep up the fight for affordable and accessible menstrual products for all," said Raut in a statement. "The abolishment of the tampon tax is something to be celebrated, but it is not enough. It’s essential for people who menstruate to have access to sustainable period products which are fairly taxed. We would like ministers to simply address this inequality and make period pants 0% VAT along with disposable menstrual products in the new financial year.”
Period pants are a more sustainable option than single-use menstrual products. Under the government's definition of menstrual products, period pants have continued to be taxed at 20% VAT as they are classed as clothing. Activists have said that this means that many people will likely turn to products that are more harmful to the environment, due to cost.
Over a lifetime, it’s estimated that the average person will have 450 periods. As you can only use single-use period products for six to eight hours, studies have estimated that one person uses approximately 11,000 menstrual products, some of which can take up to 500 years to decompose. WUKA has argued that by cutting VAT on period pants it will tackle period poverty and the plastic crisis.
On Jan. 11, Daisy Cooper the MP for St. Albans tabled an Early Day Motion petitioning the government to consider extending access to more environmentally-friendly sanitary products.
Speaking about the VAT cut, environmental activist Ella Daish said: “it’s wrong that the UK Government’s abolishment of VAT on menstrual products does not include period pants. They must get behind this call and take action by removing the tax to help make sustainable options economically viable for all who menstruate, so we can stem the tide of unnecessary waste.”
Though the petition garnered more than 18,000 signatures, it needed 100,000 signatures to be considered for debate in Parliament. While you can no longer sign it, you can write to your local MP demanding change. Here is a guide on how to sign, create, and submit a petition or write directly to your MP.