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Call for caution on hygiene products – disability peak 

Published on November 16, 2022

A peak body for people with disabilities in the ACT has made a submission into the inquiry into the waste management of absorbent hygiene products cautioning against bans or cost increases which would penalise and inconvenience people requiring an essential product for their health and dignity.

The submission, endorsed by COTA ACT as well as ACTCOSS, acknowledges the importance of waste reduction measures and welcomes the Inquiry but urges a ‘just transition’ approach which recognises the effects of restrictions or price increases on people with disability and older Canberrans.

AFI Head of Policy Craig Wallace said “continence products are not a throw away luxury item – they are essential products for many Canberrans and are used across the aged, disability and childcare sectors. A just transition to net zero waste requires that we balance waste reduction with equity concerns for vulnerable people. Restricting access to easily useable products or making them more expensive raises ethical concerns and risks to the health, safety, independence, social inclusion and dignity of vulnerable people.  We especially oppose any ‘price signal’ measures which raise the cost of products. 

Isabel Moss, Policy Officer for AFI stated “A healthy environment is a priority for people with disabilities who are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Sustainability, equity and access for people with disabilities are not opposing causes. We urge the ACT Government to invest in solutions that achieve both aims and uphold the ACTs reputation as a human rights jurisdiction”

“According to the Continence Foundation of Australia urinary incontinence is experienced by 1 in 3 women,1 in 10 men and 1 in 5 children of all ages. People with some conditions such as MS, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, heart conditions, respiratory conditions and prostrate problems are more likely to experience urinary incontinence. Faecal incontinence is experienced by 1 in 20 Australians, people with dementia are at a greater risk of experience faecal incontinence.[1] There are specific equity and access issues for women who use the products and are highly represented in the group of people who have caring roles (some of whom also have disability). 

“Any discussion on potentially limiting the use of absorbent hygiene products must begin with an understanding of the consequences and ramifications for the people who are dependent on these products in their day to day lives”, Isabel Moss concluded.

According to Mr Wallace, “Just like plastic straws, we need to ask whether this is a good place to start.   The waste sector accounts for approximately 3 percent of ACT greenhouse gas emissions far less than major polluters like industry and government. We must ensure social and financial costs of low hanging waste reduction measures do not disproportionately fall on socially and financially marginalised people.

“Nothing should happen without users being directly consulted.  We look forward to the needs of people requiring these products being considered and prioritised in the Inquiry ,” Mr Wallace concluded

To discuss please contact Isabel at or Craig Wallace on 0477 200 755. 

[1] Continence Foundation of Australia (2019). ‘Continence in Australia: A Snapshot’