Nagpur city generates almost 12-13 tonnes of sanitary waste per day, which is about 10-11 trucks on an average.
A used sanitary napkin is a big health hazard, it needs to be disposed off properly, like we do with any other blood stained cotton.
Thanks to the movie Padman, we have at least started talking about the sanitary napkin and menstrual hygiene, which was a big taboo, and superstition attached to it was an added embarrassment for discussing the issue openly. Most of us are still not so aware about disposing it off in a mixed bin with routine waste along with household garbage and if segregated it still goes in the dry waste bin.
The sanitary waste should actually be categorised as bio medical waste, because it should neither go in wet nor dry.
Especially menstrual waste of an HIV patient if not disposed off properly, may affect a segregation worker with the virus too.
45% of menstrual waste, which is collected across the country primarily consisting of sanitary napkins, is disposed off as routine garbage along with household waste. Of this 45%, rural areas constitute 25% (the highest), followed by 16% from urban and 13% from the slums.
In Nagpur city, 13% is thrown in open areas such as rivers, lakes, wells and on roadsides.
10% is disposed off in toilets, 9% is burnt and 8% is buried.
Common practices which have serious impact on our health and environment too…
I still remember the day I had seen a cow picking a sanitary napkin from the pile of waste thrown in front of my friend’s house. It made me think about the quality of the milk and ghee that we consume from the cow. After discussion with a veterinary doctor who was nearby in the area, his knowledge and he voiced his concern on the same issue, I actually started actively sensitising and paying attention towards this very important issue.
The river which used to be clean and free flowing through the entire city has today become a nallah at each point. Thanks to our own wrong practices.
Another major problem is of the choked sewage lines. A huge amount of money is spent on clearing these choked lines as sanitary napkins, which have heavy plastic content bloats up and is very difficult to remove. We also get drinking water coming from the dam after it is recycled. But imagine the kind of problem we could face, if the machinery stops for a minute. Sanitary waste is that bad major pollutant.
Most women are ignorant of what a sanitary napkin is made of and so another common practice is to burn it or today’s trend is to incinerate it, not knowing that the Sanitary Napkin is made up of chemicals, superaborbant polymers, non woven plastic, bleaching powder, woodpulp, silicon etc which not only cause bad Air Pollution but release Harmful gases like dioxin and furans in the Environment.
The dogs and pig menace that is caused due to them tearing at it all over the roadside is so very visible in Nagpur, also behavioral change that occurs after that they go running after vehicles and people.
Sanitary Napkins are not even re-cycleable. The Plastic layer which is used to make it stain free plus the chemicals used in producing it get further transferred between Soil, Water and Air.
Posing huge health risks that women are facing cause of the long-lasting !! comfortable !! stainfree !! affordable !! Disposable Sanitary Napkin does not even occur to them.
The issues of menstrual hygiene and disposal of sanitary napkins and diapers needed attention ,so after a survey of 50 girls hostels and societies working to design a Central Collection and disposal system for sanitary waste in Nagpur City, we took our proposal to NMC and the Bio Medical Waste Collector. Since we had studied the statistics, convincing the agency’s, getting permissions, starting a pilot to understand how feasible it would be was our first step, then designing the boxes, spreading awareness for the same.
We all wonder about the purpose of life. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Women from Our NGO Swacch wanted a permanent solution for the disposal of sanitary pads.
We got together with Corporator, Pragati Patil, like minded NGO’s Eco-Friendly Living Foundation , CFSD, Renovation and Rotary who have also joined hands to Support this Project.
(The soiled napkins disposed are collected by the garbage collector as household waste later segregated, often manually.
Waste pickers separate out soiled napkins from recyclable items by hand, exposing themselves to micro-organisms like E.Coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that cause hepatitis and tetanus.
When we were searching for solutions for this problem, we first spoke to Superb Hygiene, the (Bio Medical Service Providers)in our city. Since they have a Big Central incinerator at Bhandewadi(dumping site)and they told us that yes, there is spare capacity and the heat generated is so high that it is also correct and appropriate to dispose the napkins completely.
After they agreed to the project, we gave the proposal to NMC on International Women’s Day, designed the boxes in such a way that is easy to collect and dispose, also has a lock system, so that it is used only for sanitary napkins. We also have given it a yellow color with stickers of a sanitary napkin picture, so that women know and relate to the Boxes.
Step 1: You have to register your girl’s Hostel/Society with NMC or the service provider or our Ngo.
Step 2: After registration the box or boxes shall be installed by NMC.
Step 3: A woman just has to put the soiled sanitary napkins which are wrapped in paper into the yellow box, no plastic please. She does not have to touch or look inside the box.
Step 4: There is no issue of any foul smell also, till 48 hours for this waste, nor any animal menace.
Step 5: The soiled sanitary napkins will be collected every alternate day.
Step 6: In case of the service provider not able to collect for any reason, Helpline no’s of the service provider shall also be given to you (7757064326)
Step 7: As of now this service is free of any charges for girls hostels and societies.
We had little doubt about burning the pads because we thought it may release toxic dioxins to the environment. But according to the service providers, the burning takes place for 1 to 2 minutes only.
After clearing all our doubts, conducting a survey, we thought we should start the system and all the NGO’s together took the initiative.
May this step taken by all of us inspire everyone to think about this matter. Since it is now mandatory in the MSW rules 2016, we would like Women from Hostels and Societies specially to come forward to use the Swacch NMC system provided in our city.
Before installing a vending machine for Napkins make sure about the proper way of disposing them. There are organisations who are manufacturing reusable sanitary pads. Either opt for reusable pads or make sure you are not harming the Environment.
At this point this Quote by Margaret Mead comes to mind which goes thus
“Never doubt that a small group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens Can Change the World; Indeed, it’s the only thing that Ever has”
Those using it need to use gloves.