Since the first pack of tampons was stacked onto a pharmacy shelf in 1921, period products have become increasingly less sustainable.
What first was designed with a cardboard applicator is now made from over 90% plastic, which takes up to 1000 years to break down.
Enter Riley, an eco-friendly period product subscription service based in Schull that has teamed up with one of Ireland’s largest companies to provide free sustainable period products to staff.
"Riley came about at the end of last year when my co-founders (Aine Kilkenny and Fiona Parfrey) and I realised that we get our periods every month, yet we're never prepared," co-founder Lauren Duggan said. "The idea came from wanting to conveniently receive period products to our doors
"But when we started digging into the products out there we were taken aback. We never realised how much plastic was in the products we had been using since we were teenagers.
“A woman uses over 11,000 tampons in her life, which is equal to the plastic in over 5,000 plastic bags. We make conscious decisions to use things like Keep Cups, but we don't really think about the products like these that we're buying every month."
The founders launched the business in April and have all since left their other jobs in sales and business. Ms Duggan, from Ballintemple, sold her house in London and has moved back to Cork to focus on the company full time.
"We really believed in it and just thought we'd go for it. We've been taken back by the success we've had since. Our recent partnership with Vodafone has just been something else. Working with corporate companies was always something we wanted to do in the future but we thought it would be years away,” she said.
The team at Vodafone reached out to Riley during the summer, after CEO and Cork native Anne O'Leary read about the company in a newspaper. Riley now stocks free period products for over 500 Vodafone Employees in all of the company's offices and retail outlets across Ireland.
"Anne is incredible. She's creating this huge movement to become the best employer for women by 2025. Everything she's doing is in the best interests of females and inclusion and gender equality," said Ms Duggan.
"Since our partnership was announced, more companies have started to think in the same way and have reached out to discuss supplying free period products for their staff - which I think is a human right."
All of Riley’s products are compostable and are made with certified organic cotton free from pesticides, bleach, and chemicals. Items available include pads, applicator-free tampons, and tampons with an applicator made from sugar cane, which is a renewable source.
“It is fantastic to see a small Irish business like Riley see a problem and find a sustainable solution through the development of their eco-friendly period products,” said Anne O’Leary.
“Our partnership with Riley is another positive step towards supporting our colleagues through all life stages.”