Sanitary pads are made of plastic, contain cellulose gum and have an absorbent material that converts liquid to gel. All these substances make these sanitary napkins highly polluting and harmful for the environment.
They have been polluting the environment and also land up in water bodies due to lack of proper disposal systems. These pads are often found washed upon beaches and obstruct sewerage system in cities leading to waterlogging.
So, it is important to consider more environment-friendly options — most of these materials can be classified as either being reusable or disposable, says Dr Diksha S. Chadha, M. D., Director, Medical Research & CSR , Sirona Hygiene Pvt Ltd (PeeBuddy).
The disposable options include biodegradable pads and organic tampons or tampons with cardboard applicators. Biodegradable pads are made out of varying proportions of bio-plastics and natural compounds such as cotton, banana fibre, bamboo and similar products. These pads are equally absorbent and can even be put into the composting pit. Depending upon the amount of bio-plastic in them, they will turn to compost in few months to a few years, she points out.
Dr Chadha lists down few ways how to go sustainable while maintaining menstrual hygiene:
Reusable pads – The reusable options include a reusable cloth pad fashioned with wings and buttons to make them as functional as the usual sanitary pads. These reusable cloth pads are washable and reusable for up to 200-400 washes depending upon the cloth quality. The cloth pad should be dried in sunlight in order to disinfect them and prevent infections.
Period panty– Similar to a reusable cloth pad is a period-panty, which has an inbuilt space to add cotton roll or cotton cloth to use as per the flow of the user.
Menstrual cup – A menstrual cup is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood. The user may then remove the cup after 6-8 hours and simply empty the contents and re-insert the cup after a simple wash. The cup only needs to be sterilized once in between cycles using steam sterilization (for which devices are now available in the market) or disinfectant cup washes. A menstrual cup is made up of medical grade silicone and can be reused for 3-5 or even up to 10 years depending upon the quality of material of cup and the maintenance by the user. A cup is eco-friendly, economical, and medically safe to use. The user can even choose a size that fits her well based on her built, age and history of vaginal birth.
Oxo-biodegradable bags – While the basket of choice is full already, let us not forget the disposal of disposable products. The products should never be flushed and can easily be thrown away using oxo-biodegradable bags available in the market. More important than that is to remember to throw it in the right bin while using public washrooms and segregating waste at the home level as per the corporation instructions in your area or institute.