Half of the population of the world uses sanitary napkins but yet we find it difficult to even say the word sanitary pad. We have to wrap our orthodoxy in black polythenes and breon envolopes while buying pads. As per the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India(MHAI), 12.3 billion sanitary napkins are disposed off every year. And no steps are taken at a mass level to manage this waste yet.
Sanitary napkins waste is classified as solid waste under biomedical waste category. The solid waste management rules of 2016 further elaborate management guidelines. But none are implemented at ground level. The problem of disposal is that material of napkins isn’t biodegradable/compostable. The superabsorbent nature of polymers used, retain 30 times more liquid. This clogs drain pipes, sewers, toilets. Burning of these used napkins further exacerbates pollution of air and releases toxins in the environment.
According to solid waste management rules 2016 solid waste of sanitary napkins must be properly wrapped safely and handed over to waste collector separately. But seldom are these steps taken, leading to exposure of wastes to the people who segregate waste manually. According to the rules, items contaminated with blood and body fluids, including cotton, dressings, soiled plaster casts, lines, and bedding, are bio-medical waste and should be incinerated, autoclaved, or microwaved to destroy pathogens.
The non biodegradable nature of these products leaves us to explore more options of menstrual use. Menstrual cups are the only option that is plastic free for the environment. Tampons and degradable pads also have contents damaging to the environment, although in less quantity. Degradation of such plastic polymers take hundreds of years and releases microplastics in the environment. The soil contaminated by such microplastics mixes with underground water. This has potential to harm drinking water, crops and animal-human health.
For the betterment of women and society as a whole, the taboo surrounding menstruation needs to be demystified. Men and women alike need to take steps to educate each other. We need to stop being shocked when someone talks about periods. We must dare to say ‘periods’ and not other words like ‘chums’ or anything. People may judge but gradually they’ll come around.
Furthermore, tax rebates and subsidies must be provided by government to boidegradable pads and tampons. Awareness must be spread by self help groups at village level and NGOs. Government schemes like beti bachao beti padhao, swachh Bharat must also include sanitary disposal techniques. At last, guidelines of 2016 for solid waste management must include punishments to make ill practices a crime. This may help impose right actions. This will also help in monitoring the implementation of safe sanitary waste management.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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