Welcome back to ‘The Ocean Series’ started by Saathi to be a part of the sustainable solution to the ongoing problem of ocean pollution. In Part-1 - The Threat, we discussed ocean pollution, the UNSDGs related to it, and how plastics are one of the greatest contributors to ocean pollution. In this blog, we will talk about how menstrual products contribute to plastic pollution which in turn harms the ocean.
From earbuds to hosepipes, plastics have hoisted their flag on each and every part of the world. Its usage has been growing like wild grass especially in the 21st century because of the rise of capitalism and consumerism. It is the direct consequence of consumer culture and the everlasting convenience of plastics that nearly half of all plastics have been made since 2000. It is our responsibility to understand how plastics can affect our planet. About 18 billion pounds of plastic waste ends up in the ocean whether by accident or on purpose. And, about 40% of that amount is single-use plastic produced in packaging food, grocery, bottles, etc. It has been polluting our natural resources such as the oceans. At this point in time, there are now 5.25 trillion macro and microplastics in our ocean with 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean. This means the ocean is in danger and the ecological balance of the world too.
Macroplastics are large plastic particles like plastic bags that break down into microplastics which are small pieces of plastics just like plastic pellets in your toothpaste. These microplastics are deadly when consumed by sea animals. Both macro and microplastics are part of the majority of the sanitary pads that everyone uses. Regular single-use sanitary pads contain nearly 90% of plastics which would take 500-800 years to decompose and even when they do break down, they will just turn into microplastics. According to the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India, 121 million menstruators use regular non-biodegradable sanitary pads which further equates to 113,000 tonnes of menstrual product waste annually generated in India if one menstruator uses 8 pads per menstrual cycle. It is not just disposable period pads that contain plastic but tampons too. The strings of the tampons are made of plastic and the applicator of most tampons is also of plastic. Some tampons are also known to contain plastic in their absorbent part to hold the cotton together. Plastic tampon applicators have been found inside the stomach of dead sea birds.
Menstrual waste like sanitary pads is often flushed into toilets which causes blockage in the sewage system.Sewers are not designed to pass fully absorbed menstrual product waste due to their expanded size. Proper disposal of menstrual products can solve this problem of sewer blockage. According to a report by the European Commission, sanitary waste is the 5th most common category of waste found on beaches.
In some rural areas, to avoid certain superstitious events, the menstrual plastic is directly thrown into the small water bodies which further enter the ocean. A pilot study conducted in West Bengal highlighted that 78% out of the 1000 women interviewed would discard their menstrual waste by either burying them or throwing them near ponds ultimately polluting the ocean.(1) Pads soaked with blood just like any other organic matter can be a source of bacteria when left in an improper condition for a long period of time. Hence, when it comes in direct contact with water bodies can contaminate the water used for various purposes. These products also contain dioxin and furans that are known toxins to plant, animal, and human life.
Ocean plastics are known to kill millions of marine animals every year. Nearly 700 species are affected by plastic pollution. Menstrual product waste is also a significant contributor to this plastic pollution that harms the ocean. A number of surveys show that even today, a large amount of menstrual products waste finds its way into the water bodies. (2) It is not possible to keep using the regular disposable pads as they can never be disposed of properly because they break down into microplastics, and regardless would pollute the environment.
The issue of microplastics has also been catching the attention of environmentalists and activists because of its rising negative impact on the ocean. It is time to look at the bigger picture where these plastics not only harm the ocean but the entire water cycle which in turn adversely affects us as all the natural resources are interconnected. Therefore, it is important to reduce these plastics by switching to eco-friendly menstrual products. Some great examples include menstrual cups and biodegradable pads. At Saathi, we work to address the problem of ocean pollution by ensuring that we create sustainable products that we take responsibility for as manufacturers. Hence, we created 100% biodegradable and compostable pads and environment friendly menstrual cups.
We hope that this blog was informative about how menstrual product waste increases plastic pollution which harms the ocean and in turn us. Follow The Ocean Series to read our Part-3 blog on microplastics, their impact on the ocean, on life and us.
- Plastics Free Series Part - 1
- World Oceans Day
- 10 Items you never knew contained plastic
- The Push for no plastic begins with you
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 8 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).