Eco-friendly Sanitary Napkins in India

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Author – Rayomand Gheesta

Eco-friendly sanitary napkins
SheCup – Image Source Wikimedia.org

I woke up the other day to the sound of the garbage man arguing with one of the residents of the township I stay in. He was protesting about the way sanitary napkins and used diapers were disposed off. Since they are medically pathogenic, he wanted people to recognize a proper way of throwing them off after use. On giving it some thought, I figured he had a point. There isn’t a standardized way of disposing a sanitary napkin. It is just rolled in paper, put in a plastic bag and just thrown off in garbage. Waste workers while separating these non-biodegradable napkins, can be infected with infections and allergies. There badly needs a humane way for them to handle this kind of waste.

Used sanitary napkins and disposable diapers are one category of waste nobody wants to talk about. However, the enormous volumes of napkins produced and the threat they pose to the environment are real. On top of that, due to increasing consumption due to aggressive marketing, we have a situation where we are running out of space for waste disposal.

To counter this, SWaCH NGO have come up with a disposable paper bag that costs INR1 to pack the used sanitary napkin before chucking it into the dustbin. These bags have a bright yellow sticker with the details of usage, which makes it recognizable by waste pickers to separate it. However, this solution just caters to the tip of the problem.

Picture this: A parent choosing disposable diapers for an infant, typically till the baby is two years old, would run through nearly 1,500-2,000 disposable diapers (365 days x 2-3 diapers x 2 years), which would require 20 trees to be cut down and 1,180 liters of crude oil to be utilized for their manufacture. The statistics around feminine hygiene products are no less alarming. Only 12% of the 355 million women of menstruating age in India can afford disposable sanitary napkins. However, these 42.6 million Indian women will throw away 21.3 billion sanitary napkins into a landfill in their lives.

Apart from wood pulp used in both disposable diapers and sanitary napkins, chlorine bleach is a key ingredient that is used to whiten the pulp. Chlorine bleach is both an environmental hazard, which releases toxic chemicals as a by-product of the bleaching process. Diapers and sanitary napkins finally end up in a landfill since there is no option to dispose them in a safe manner.

Fortunately, as with any problem, there are a few innovative solutions for avoiding non-bio-degradable sanitary napkins and disposable diapers.

Reusable Modern Cloth Diapers

bumchum reusable diapers
Bumchum Diapers : Image Source Bumchum

As a substitute for normal diapers, Reusable modern cloth diapers can be used. These cloth diapers have a water-tight outer cover with a washable cloth insert inside. Once full, the wastes are flushed down the toilet and the insert can be washed and re-used. Further, the baby does not come in contact with harmful chemicals found in a normal disposable diaper and cloth diapers turn out far more economical over 2 years as compared to your regular environment polluting diapers.

Similarly, a few options exist for concerned women who want to explore healthier and eco-friendly sanitary napkins.

SheCup

SheCup-Eco friendly sanitary napkins
SheCup – Image Source Wikimedia.org

The first is the “SheCup” that is worn internally, and is made from silicone and designed like a cup to collect the menstrual blood. This can be worn for 12 hours. Once full, the contents of the cup can simply be emptied into the toilet, and the cup can be cleaned and worn again.

Reusable Sanitary Napkin

Arunachalam Muruganantham Eco-friendly-sanitary-napkins
Arunachalam Muruganantham Reusable Napkins: Image Source : be-abhi.tumblr.com

The second option is a reusable sanitary napkin made from cloth. The design and use of these cloth napkins is similar to disposable napkins, and they provide absorbency by using many layers of cotton. They have options for heavy and light flow days and a combination of the two can fully substitute disposable napkins every month. They are quite easy to care for as well, and can even be washed in a washing machine after soaking and removing all the menstrual discharge. Here again, the reusable cloth napkins protects the user from coming in contact with a number of harmful chemicals found in disposable napkins.

Bio-degradable Sanitary Napkins

Anandi-Eco-friendly-sanitary-napkins
Anandi – Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin Image Source – Aakar Innovations

A third upcoming option is using Bio-degradable sanitary napkins that are being produced by a few companies. Social taboo of an unspoken topic will always be a roadblock towards incorporating changes. It may need a lot of counseling, spreading of information and more than anything an open mind to shift to these options. But every sanitary napkin or disposable diaper you can save from a landfill will have a cascading effect and positively impact forests, water, air, the city you live in and your health.

Current Innovations Incorporated in India

  • Arunachalam Muruganantham of Jayaashree Industries designed and implemented a sanitary napkin-making machine that operates on a small scale. This manual sanitary napkin-making machine can be made available to a buyer for approximately INR75,000. This national innovation foundation award winning idea allows smaller players to adopt the business model, and thus generates more employment.
  • Aakar Foundation produces an eco-friendly, low cost, biodegradable sanitary napkin, ‘Anandi’. Priced at a price 40% lower than commercial napkins, the foundation focuses on small towns and villages and now has a commercial production unit in West Bengal.
  • Sakura Magic produced by the Hope Foundation is India’s first 100% handmade, eco-friendly and hypo allergenic sanitary napkin. It is a sanitary napkin with imported SAP Gel from Japan has been made possible with the technological assistance from GN Corporation Ltd., Japan.
  • Reusable diapers are slowly gaining popularity. ‘Bumchum’ were India’s first modern diaper line. But now various stores like Firstcry, Smartbaby, Babyoye offering the same.

Factfile –
http://archive.indianexpress.com
http://www.thehindu.com
http://www.bbc.com
http://www.livemint.com
http://mumsphere.com

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Ecoideaz is hell bent on proving that sensible green ideas do emerge from India. It is eager to build a comprehensive portfolio of all eco-friendly ideas developed in India and create a repository for innovative green ideas both from the investor and consumer perspective.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for bringing more awareness to sustainable menstrual products in India and the importance of using them! There are also more great menstrual products produced in India. The Vcup, Shomota Pads, Eco Femme Pads and Uger Pads! Check them out!

    • Dr. Priya,
      Thank you very much for your interest in this idea. we need more details about your business so will send you a separate mail soon

  2. Hi this is sneha
    I wanted to know more about the products as I wanted to start up with new sanitary napkins business.
    Request you to Give me details on the products.
    Thank you

    Regards,
    Sneha

    • Hi Sneha,
      Thank you very much for your interest to start a green business. i request you to send your details to editor @ecoideaz.com

    • Hi Srivani, thank you very much for your interest. yes, you can do it in small scale and we can help you set up your unit. please send your location, investment details to editor @ecoideaz.com

    • Hi Sanjay,
      Please send us a few details about your business unit – investment range, exact location of unit, number of partners, etc, to editor @ecoideaz.com

  3. Hi, I would like to start a small scale biodegradable sanitary napkin production unit at Trivandrum, Kerala. Please guide me

    • saukhyam Reusable Sanitary pads – our mission is to empower women and girls through business, innovation and opportunity.
      We are a social enterprise that specializes in the local manufacture and global supply of reusable sanitary pads as a cost-effective menstrual hygiene solution for millions of women and girls worldwide.

  4. Hi,
    Sanitary Napkins have become very harmful, loaded with hazardous Bacteria, spoiling the earth, atmosphere, spoiling the nature etc. after one use only.
    So washable and reusable cloth pad and period panties are advisable.

  5. Speedy production of disposable napkins is good, but awareness also needed for their safe disposal. alternative safety measures are also needed. Research on sustainable, eco friendly, reusable napkins is also needed and implemented in time limits.

    • Hi Arunkumar,
      Thank you very much for your valuable suggestions. would you be interested in researching on this topic for us? if yes, please mail us at editor @ecoideaz.com

    • Hello Niranjan,
      We are welcoming to make a product to Transform India.
      Set up a Manufacturing Unit in your area.
      1-First you have to survey by contacting customer for your Product.
      This is involved Lot of advertisement to make awareness.
      A lot of NGOS are showing more Interest on this Product.
      2- And then you can start your Factory.
      For that you need Technician to lead the Factory.
      This Product is Need 5 type of material . available in bulk only against full payment.
      Consider the above fact before starting unit.
      Manufacturing and retail selling involved difficult tasks. If you are interested contact us by mail
      We are only one manufacturing Exporter and domestic seller of cloth pad and Period panties.
      We can send samples . With this you can contact consumer and can start marketing.
      So please contact us for further discussion.

      • Hi Ganesan,
        Please avoid posting long messages and your contact details. you can post your company details in our Green Directory section

    • Hi Debabrata,
      thank you very much for your interest in this project. please mail me your contact details at editor @ecoideaz.com

  6. Dear Lawrence,
    I would like to setup a manufacturer of eco friendly sanitary napkins in Rwanda (East African Country).

    Kindly advise how you can assist me on this.

  7. hi,i want to start manufacturing unit for eco friendly sanitary pads in mumbai.please tell how the raw materials, cosumables required for the same.

    • Mrs. Priya,
      we can send you a business project report on sanitary pads if you are ready to pay for it. please mail us at editor @ecoideaz.com

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