The ever growing menstrual waste is a menace to combat by most municipal bodies, be it for rural or urban areas.
Sanitary waste disposal is a huge threat as sanitary napkins are part of non-bio degradable solid waste and the way they are discarded are extremely irresponsible.
It has been estimated that around 432 million pads are disposed every month around the globe. The plastic contained in most sanitary napkins is definitely harmful to the environment but also has negative consequences.
Moreover, pads are made of LDPE plastic polymers, bleached wood pulp and super absorbent gel or polyacrylate. Even the organic material in it like wood pulp and cotton contain dioxins or bleaching agent and furans.
These toxic chemicals are combined with the open threat of blood borne pathogens that thrives on soiled sanitary napkins. Moreover, handling such soiled napkins exposes the rag and waste pickers to micro-organisms like EColi, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that can contain virus such as tetanus, Hepatitis B and C and other infections and allergies.
In India, the rag pickers, in the absence of any well-designed sanitation and waste management strategy, work without any protective gear and often cut themselves while picking waste like broken glasses or sharp metal pieces. Thus, directly increases their vulnerability to various health hazards.
Indian women, both in rural and urban areas are often found to simply throw out their menstrual waste in the open without even bothering to wrap in a paper or at times flushed in toilets jamming toilet pipes.
Urban women mainly dispose them after careful wrapping in the dustbin when at home but do not bother much when in public places. Most rural women bury menstrual waste in a pit or alongside ponds.
In urban areas reckless throwing of sanitary pads after usage causes clogged sewage pipelines hindering the proper flow of waste water and causing society woes.
Another visual embarrassment is that street dogs tend to get excited with the blood smells and tear open closed packets of used sanitary pads and scatter them all over the roadsides causing public as well as environmental anguish.
Hence, awareness towards proper waste management holds the key to stopping this reckless disposal. We need to recognize a need to educate and implement strategic solutions for menstruation waste management for a more sustainable world. Here we note ways to make disposal of sanitary pads more environment-friendly.
Educate women on disposal system
Educate rural as well as urban women on the hazards of menstrual waste faced by the environment as well as by the scavengers and rag pickers for the manual removal process too.
Use of better incinerators for community level disposal
Schools, office complex, big institutions as well as building communities should install incinerators in a controlled environment so that no harmful gases are released and cause any further environmental damage.
Special disposal bags
Several NGOs are working with FMCG companies in India to show better corporate responsibility by including environment friendly special disposal bags with every sanitary napkin pack for throwing menstrual waste in a better way and so that rag pickers involved in manual removal will identify the bags easily and know how to deal with them without causing mental as well as physical threats.
However, all these methods might not sound too pragmatic for many people. In that case, do try to discard soiled napkins only after wrapping in a newspaper and in properly designated places or in waste bins with closed covers, which might prove to be a little more conscientious and decent too.