A “GROUNDBREAKING” scheme which could offer young women and girls in Caldicot cheap and reusable sanitary products is being considered by the town council.

The idea was put forward by Cllr Rachel Garrick at a council meeting last Wednesday in a bid to tackle “period poverty” in the area.

“Research shows that girls are losing education time because of menstruation,” said Cllr Garrick last week.

“It’s simple austerity when women can’t afford to look after themselves.”

The meeting heard that discarded sanitary products account for 200,000 tonnes of oil-based waste in the UK each year. Cllr Garrick suggested that a scheme could be formed locally which promotes the use of sustainable products at a discounted price.

She said: “We could provide a groundbreaking provision of re-usable sanitary products.”

She also criticised the idea of schools having machines which charge pupils for sanitary towels and tampons, a practice carried out by one secondary school in Monmouthshire. The idea was warmly received by Caldicot town councillors, with Cllr Dave Evans describing period poverty as a “hot topic”.

He added: “It’s a must, we can’t have children missing school, so I will be supporting this.”

In relation to the use of vending machines, Cllr Frank Rowberry said: “With machines like this someone is making a profit, I don’t think there should be profit made out of something like this.”

Cllr Garrick later told the Free Press that her proposals were in part inspired by the work already being done by the ‘dignity bags’ scheme in Chepstow.

Founded by Cllr Hilary Beach, of Chepstow Town Council, the project sees volunteers gather supplies such as sanitary towels, wipes, disposal bags and paracetamol for those who are unable to afford them. Since March, the scheme has received support from Caldicot-based charity iNEED, which has helped to circulate the support packs to local foodbanks and charities, as well as those in need abroad.

Cllr Beach, who was present at last week’s meeting, said: “Our projects are somewhat different in that Rachel is more focused on reusable products and raising awareness in the schools.

“But we are both supporting each other, so I was really pleased by the reaction it received at the meeting.”

Caldicot mayor Cllr Phil Stevens and Cllr Garrick, have since had a “positive meeting” with Susan Gwyer-Roberts, head teacher of Caldicot School, with regards to the issue of period poverty. For several years the school has arranged for free sanitary products to be provided by the company Always.

“A large stock is kept in the welfare room and female pupils and staff are aware that these products are available free of charge,” said a Monmouthshire council spokesman.

“Some pupils regularly obtain their sanitary products from the Welfare Room as they forget to bring them to school or cannot afford to buy them.”

Period poverty became a topic discussed by county councillors last month when Cllr Dimitri Batrouni asked about its prevalence in the local authority at a full council meeting. In response, Cllr Sara Jones, cabinet member for social justice and community development, said the issue had not been raised with the council but acknowledged that the problem does exist.

Cllr Batrouni has since submitted another motion calling for further action having received “anecdotal information” that period poverty is an issue in the county.

A council spokesman added: “We will work with our Community and Partnership Development team, through our social justice strategy, to identify partnership solutions and support, including looking at best practice such as the Wings Project in Bridgend.”