The solution to increasing menstrual waste: Reversible Feminine Hygiene products
"Feminine Hygiene is one of the most crucial aspects which is used to judge the progress of a nation. And with every nation investing heavily into the progress of their women and to help their countries meet SDGs as set by the UN, a new evil has been given birth to".
According to the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India (MHAI), almost 36% of all women in India use disposable sanitary napkins and with most of these pads being made of non-biodegradable plastic, it is not only a threat to the environment but even to the health of animals.
These products also account for a large quantity of air pollution as one of the main ways that these products are treated is by incineration which can even lead to inhaling harmful fumes by unprotected workers.
An approximate 12.3 billion tons of non-biodegradable Feminine Hygiene product waste is produced in India per year.
In order to deal with this a simple yet often ignored option exists, ensuring the use of Reversible Feminine Hygiene products.
Alternatives available in the market:
Some of the products that can drastically reduce the waste being produced by nations are
1. Banana fibre/ Bamboo fibre/Water hyacinth pads:
In pads made from these materials, the natural fibre is used to serve as the absorbing material in the pad. Not only do these materials have a higher absorption capacity, but they are also easily biodegradable, turning to soil within 6 months from their disposal. Since plants have a natural ability to prevent the attack of bacterias on them, these pads have a high antibacterial ability which also helps women avoid developing an infection during their period.
2. Reusable cloth pads:
Reusable cloth pads have often been in the centre of all female hygiene discussions for not being sanitary if they are not dried properly in the sunlight. While this is true, if cleaned and dried properly, these can be used up to 75 times and is made mainly out of cotton and other fabric they are also bio-degradable and with the rise of effective UV ray sanitisers and cleaners, it is even easier to use these pads even if there is a lack of sunlight.
3. Organic menstrual cups:
While fairly new in the market, these products allow women with heavy period flow a viable option, especially for modern working women. These cups can last for up to 6-12 hours.
The plastic version of these cups is also sustainable as they can be used multiple times once cleaned allowing for a greener and healthier practise of consumerism.
Reasons for limited use:
While products like these in the market and many other innovative solutions are still in the making, the options are plenty but one thing that often stops women from using these alternatives is the lack of awareness by teachers as well as senior family members.
All of these products go through a series of clinical trials before hitting our shelves and are approved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) before being deemed fit for use by normal customers.
Even the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India (MHAI) has been actively promoting the use of alternatives to regular pads and tampons deeming them as a greener and in some cases even a healthier choice.
So, it is crucial that women, while being educated about their periods, are also well educated about these non-traditional alternatives that they can use to allow for a better flow of information in society.
The effect they can have on the industry:
These can drastically decrease the amount of waste that is often associated with female hygiene products and are even expected to cut the waste produced by the industry to half. This can go a long way in ensuring a better ecosystem and easier handling of these products in both solid waste management as well as sanitary waste management, ensuring more safety and easier workflow for the workers working in these sectors.
These can also allow smaller industries to step into this market which has largely been dominated by big industries, creating new job opportunities in manufacturing as well as research and with a market as large as India, this can go a long way in cutting down the unemployment rate which has been steadily increasing in the past few years.
With the number of menstrual hygiene product users increasing, it is important that the government, as well as society as a whole, decides to ensure a greener and safer earth for us all to live in without compromising the leaps we have taken in our way of dealing with Feminine Hygiene.