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Sanitary Napkin Disposal - A Growing Concern

India has one of the largest number of menstruating women. There are around 350 million menstruating women, and about 35% use sanitary napkins. This number indicates the growing use of sanitary napkins, especially among urban women. While using the right sanitary napkin is crucial, ensuring that you discard them in the right way is equally important.  

Sanitary napkins, if not disposed of in the right way, can lead to a lot of menace. Approximately 200 tonnes of sanitary napkin waste get generated every day. A study reveals that around 12.3 billion sanitary napkins are accumulated in India’s landfills. This improper disposal of sanitary napkins leads to unhygienic conditions for everyone. 

Sanitary napkins/pads have been prevalent since the 10th century. These are meant to absorb the menstrual flow and avoid any leakage. Sanitary napkins are essential for a hygienic period experience. Today, sanitary napkins are available in a wide variety of options and different sizes. 

About menstrual waste 

While using sanitary napkins is crucial, ensuring proper disposal of used sanitary pads is another essential part. What is menstrual waste? Menstrual waste is the accumulation of used sanitary pads soaked with blood. These include sanitary napkins, tampons, and other materials used during periods.  

In India alone, approximately 121 million women and girls use an average of eight disposable and non-compostable pads every month which generates about 1.021 billion of menstrual waste monthly and around 12.3 billion of waste annually.

Disposal of sanitary napkins

Disposing of sanitary napkins is a global concern that needs addressing. Sanitary napkins that have been used are filled with blood and waste that requires discarding them the right way. However, when it comes to disposing of this waste, many women lack adequate knowledge.

Today sanitary waste disposal has become a rising problem in India since the plastic used in disposable sanitary napkins is not biodegradable. It in turn leads to health and environmental hazards. 

Many sanitary pads include plastic and other substances. These plastics remain existent for several years and cause environmental danger. 

There are several reasons why disposing of sanitary napkins the right way is important. If not done the correct way, it might lead to the spread of infections and bacteria. Also, germs thrive on blood exposed for long durations. 

According to the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules of 1998, sanitary napkins must be discarded in extreme heat for killing maximum pathogens. Many people are casual and throw their sanitary napkins as domestic waste. These are required to be manually separated from other recyclables. 

The impact of improper disposal becomes even more, especially due to the unorganised municipal solid waste management and disposal and transportation networks in the cities and villages.

Harmful effects on the environment

As per the data by Menstrual Health Alliance India, a single sanitary napkin takes up to 500 to 800 years to get decomposed, which leads to health and environmental hazards. These do not decompose and break down into micro-plastics, thereby contaminating the soil, water, and air.     

These might also enter the food chain and release toxins in the food consumed by humans and animals.      

Best way for disposing sanitary napkins

Soiled sanitary napkins are considered biohazardous garbage. Hence, it is first important to ensure that there are separate bins to dispose of them. It is crucial to have the right knowledge of sanitary pad disposal. Proper disposal of menstrual waste is important from a hygienic as well as an environmental point of view.

Not doing the right thing will only harm the environment and lead to further problems. The following are a few ways to ensure proper disposal of sanitary pads:

a. Disposal Machine 

Technological advancements have led to the invention of sanitary napkin disposal machines. A Sanitary napkin disposal machine is a great way to dispose of used sanitary napkins in public restrooms. It prevents the spread of odours and is easy to use. 

b. Folding the Sanitary Napkins

Always ensure that the soiled napkins are folded and wrapped around a newspaper and then placed in a bag before throwing them. It will ensure that the flies and other bacteria stay away from them. 

C. Never Flush Used Pads

An absolute no! Flushing pads, no matter where you are, is a complete no and should be avoided at all costs. The primary reason is that it can clog the pipeline and lead to further problems. 

Finally, there are certain tips for disposing of pads during the last day of your period. If you do not change your pad by the end of the day, make sure to fold it properly and then dispose of it. Also ensure that the menstrual flow is not visible. 

After the disposal, make sure to properly wash your hands to maintain hygiene.

Also, never throw the soiled sanitary product without covering it with plastic disposal, piece of paper, or paper bag, and make sure it is properly sealed. 

Menstruation is a natural process and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Every woman goes through it every month for 4 to 7 days. It is the need of the hour to have proper knowledge and awareness regarding sanitary napkin disposal. 

Due to the lack of facility & disposal systems in India and other social stigmas attached to menstruation, the overall behaviour of women towards sanitary waste disposal is affected. With proper education and knowledge, a successful disposal system can be set up. 

Lastly, it is in your hands to keep your surroundings clean and tidy. Additionally, the government should also take measures to provide for detailed guidelines for appropriate disposal methods related to menstrual waste. 

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