According to the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India, there are nearly 336 million menstruators in India, out of which 121 million menstruators use disposable sanitary pads. These regular single-use sanitary pads are made up of 90% plastic and are non-biodegradable. This means that if a single menstruator uses 8 pads per cycle then there are almost 12.3 billion sanitary pad waste just from India. This menstrual waste first harms the two types of workers: the domestic workers and the waste pickers who directly come in contact with the menstrual waste.
Effect on Waste Pickers:
This waste is picked up by the garbage collectors who then manually segregate these waste by exposing themselves to various possible life-threatening diseases like Hepatitis or Tetanus. There is no proper management of these biochemical wastes at the municipality level mainly due to lack of infrastructure. There are also instances when these garbage collectors do not use proper protection while collecting these harmful wastes. These workers often go on strikes because of no proper compensation given to them for putting their life at risk.
Effect on Domestic Workers:
Not just the waste pickers but the domestic workers are also hugely impacted by this. Due to improper menstrual sanitation, these workers are directly exposed to the foul smell as well as the various bad microorganisms like Staphylococcus, E. Coli, etc from the disposable sanitary pads. Apart from this, they are also asked to clean the dirty laundry of their employers with the menstrual bloodstains. This can also harm their health. They are not fairly compensated for this task and are not treated with the dignity that they deserve as any other human being.
Effect on upper and lower classes of the society:
The different sections of society are not equally affected by this problem. The upper-class menstruator have accessibility to sanitary pads and top-notch medical facilities but the lower-class menstruators still struggle with the accessibility of pads, let alone biodegradable pads. Only about 36% of menstruators in India have access to sanitary pads while others still use the old ideas of clothes, rags, and different unhygienic products. And, the ones who do have access but not to eco-friendly pads at affordable prices. Coming to the part of disposal, the mistakes by the upper-class menstruators harm the lower-class people as they are the ones employed as the waste-pickers or the domestic workers.
This problem of menstrual waste can only be solved through conscious efforts from the privileged classes and the government. By proper utilization of the taxes and the creation of good infrastructure and management, the problem of disposal of menstrual waste can be reduced. Also, the upper class must realize their privileges and make necessary changes in the way they go about their menstrual sanitation and waste to protect the people who work for them. But, to cut the weed at its core,we must switch to 100% biodegradable and compostable pads like Saathi Pads and save ourselves from the endless torture of the disposable of regular sanitary pads. These pads will eliminate the tension of treating the biochemical waste properly as they degrade within 6 months of disposal and are easy to be disposed of. This will not only protect the workers but also the environment from dying in an overflowing landfill.
Saathi, an award-winning social venture has patented technology to convert agri-waste into absorbent materials. It is known for its 100% biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made from banana and bamboo fibers. Saathi pads are better for the body🩸, community 🌎 and environment 🌱. We are on a mission to make products sustainably and responsibly.
We are recognized by the UNESCO Green Citizens project, University of St. Andrews, Solar Impulse Foundation, and Global Cleantech Innovation Program among others for our innovative, social impact, and sustainable work. We are working towards 9 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).