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Not so green: The myth of the biodegradable sanitary pads

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biodegradable padsStandard pads are made up of wooden pulp, a superabsorbent polymer (SAP), cotton and plastic fibers.

By Kartik Johari, 

In 2011 it was, “Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai?”
In 2021 it’s “Kya aapke san-pad mein bamboo pulp hai?”

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Nevertheless, regardless of Lara Dutta’s greatest efforts, the salt in toothpaste development sort of light out. A cue eco-friendly pad makers is perhaps smart to take.

Fabricated from corn starch, banana fibre or bamboo pulp a number of new area of interest pad manufacturers have joined what’s being referred to as a ‘nation-wide revolution’ to get rid of plastic intervals. ‘India has 121 million customers of sanitary pads, who with their 12 billion plastic pads per yr are clogging drains, blocking landfills and fueling local weather change’1, our pad warriors are raging—advertising and marketing their product as the right match to scrub your vagina, soul and carbon footprint.

Nevertheless, identical to Shakespeare’s, “All that glitters shouldn’t be gold”, all that’s greenwashed might not truly be inexperienced.

Right here’s why.

THRUTH PILL #1: Inexperienced elements have a carbon footprint

Bamboo shoots look like miracle elements. However what do they price the atmosphere to make? Hours-long, water-intensive, chemical laden extraction methods that may be poisonous to pores and skin and effluent-heavy. Additionally, China is the one nation that produces bamboo on a business scale. Typically with no set requirements or pesticide pointers. Typically at the price of cute panda properties. Pads nonetheless appear 100% inexperienced?

TRUTH PILL #2: Inexperienced pads aren’t 100% compostable

Standard pads are made up of wooden pulp, a superabsorbent polymer (SAP), cotton and plastic fibers. Many biodegradable pads exchange the SAP and wooden pulp, however nonetheless should retain a minor quantity of plastic for waterproofing. However merely biodegradable doesn’t imply compostable. For pads to be compostable, i.e. to be able to disintegrating in soil in 90-180 days, all the product must be fabricated from a single ingredient in order that microbes can do their factor. Nevertheless, with our current know-how, that’s practically not possible. Consequently, most inexperienced pads aren’t completely biodegradable.

TRUTH PILL #3: Composting is tough, and sophisticated

However a partly compostable pad is best no? you’ll say, proper? Appropriate, offered everybody has entry to a compost pit such as you do. You do, don’t you?

Atleast a small patch in your yard. No? A small sq. in your kitchen for peels. Additionally, no? What a couple of group compost pit? Oh, you don’t even separate your rubbish. Rattling.

Sarcasm aside, picture a family of three menstruators. They’d have 78 (3 x 16per cycle) pads to compost per thirty days. Calculate the variety of pads a yr and may you think about the scale their compost pit must be?

Reality is, all pads are equally polluting in the event that they aren’t disposed accurately. Plastic pads if incinerated accurately or taken aside and recycled could be managed effectively.

Check out this chart from a 2018 paper by WaterAid India’s Arundhati Muralidharan. The dots are telling.

TRUTH PILL #4: Numbers are falsely alarming

In line with our calculations primarily based on the Central Air pollution Management Board’s 2019 report, and a report funded by the Invoice and Melinda Basis menstrual waste varieties 3.27% of the annual waste generated in India (Desk 3). Are you aware what varieties 66%? Important-to-life substances like polybags, multilayer pouches used for meals packing. As a matter of truth, one-fifth of the silt that clogs Delhi’s drains throughout monsoons is made up of empty gutkha and pan masala packets! And but, we see editorials solely on inexperienced pads, not inexperienced gutkha packets.

Ethical: Calculations that make it look like a barrage of pads is upon us, could be misguiding. Knowledge all the time deserves context and nearer seeing.

TRUTH PILL #5: The actual pad downside is elsewhere.

Lack of menstrual hygiene is the fifth largest killer of ladies on the earth, shut behind coronary heart illness, stroke, respiratory infections and COPD.

Out there to lower than 40% of the nation (NFHS, 2016) it isn’t composition however the entry of pads that we must be panicking about. As a substitute of guilting girls on failing to save lots of the world even whereas bleeding out, we ought to be encouraging them to decide on the choice most preferable to them.

Even at the moment, regardless of wigs, SAP, anti-bacterial locks, pads leak, odor, get icky. ‘Inexperienced pads’ are extremely superior and may deal with this, you say. They’re additionally very, very expensive. (Refer desk 1)

Speaking of options—material pads and cups want clear water. Operating water and the privateness of functioning bathrooms proceed to be scarce throughout the nation. Fabric pads must be dried within the solar—on the market on laundry traces for our very liberal society to see. Cups and tampons must be inserted. In case you ever doubt the stigma that also revolves round insertion, strive having a dialog together with your bai about on switching.

Earlier than I conclude, I’d prefer to ask: Are you aware what number of PET bottles India makes use of annually? In line with my estimation (Refer Desk 2), 62.4 billion, or 5.2x Arundhati Muralidharan’s estimation of the variety of pads used annually. But, PET isn’t an issue as over 70% of those recycled into clothes, roads, and so forth with out the involvement of customers, producers and even the federal government.

Equally, the disposal of pads (plastic or in any other case), too, could be managed completely.

There exists know-how that may separate out the pad into its varied parts after which course of it. Italy primarily based Tecnofer is only one firm that’s able to this. Japan, which has know-how to create electrical energy out of dirty diapers. In Pune, a 25-year-old engineer Ajinkya Dhariya has developed Padcare, a machine to recycle menstrual waste. Whereas in Vadodara, practically 6 years again innovator Shyam Sunder Bedekar invented the Ashudinashak, an eco-friendly clay incinerator that can be utilized to simply eliminate pads, even by rural girls.

Thus, clearly, plastic shouldn’t be the issue. Mindset is.

As a result of all pads must be is reasonably priced, accessible and straightforward for customers to make use of and throw. There are lots of extra ‘plastics’ to deal with earlier than we come to the indispensable one in our menstruators’ panties.

(The writer is Vice President, Nobel Hygiene. Views expressed are private and don’t mirror the official place or coverage of the Monetary Specific On-line.)

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