Menstrual Waste Management has always been a ‘Silent Problem’ in India. After the continuous efforts of many NGOs and campaigns held by many companies; women in India have now understood the importance of using period products during the menstruation cycle. But a part that is left unreached is that part that comes after using these period products: Menstrual Waste Management. Recently a cleanliness drive was wave in India, namely, ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan; where it not only state the importance of maintaining the sanitization level in a country; but also encourage the people to join this movement to make India clean. However, a silent problem that remained unaddressed due to social stigma and taboos related to it was menstrual waste disposal.
Reports by MHAI (Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India) stated that; around 121 million Indian women use Sanitary napkins during the menstruation cycle. ‘One-time use’ Sanitary napkins made of 90% plastic; making each pad equal to 4 plastic bags making the sanitary napkin non-biodegradable. These non-biodegradable pads took around 500-800 years to decompose. It means that these napkins stay for a much longer time and cause harm to the environment.
Disposal of Menstrual Waste:
Women who live in urban areas choose to use commercial sanitary napkins during the menstruation cycle. After using sanitary napkins, women wrap the used napkins in a plastic bag, newspaper, or tissue paper and throw them in a dustbin. Later, the menstrual waste gets mix with the domestic waste, and it is hand over to the garbage pickers. The garbage picker holds that waste with bare hands, and later on, it is dump in landfills. In public toilets, where there is a lack of sanitization, women flush the used sanitary napkins or keep them in the washroom corner in an open place.
Women who live in Rural areas stick to the old methods to avoid period stains. Women use old dirty clothes, dry leaves, ashes, sandbags, newspaper, and mud bags during the menstruation cycle. Due to the lack of Period Education, women are unaware of the consequences of these substances during periods. Women who live in rural and slum areas cannot afford to buy a pack of sanitary napkins that force them to stick to these unhygienic methods during the menstruation cycle.
But some women manage to buy a pack of Sanitary napkins but lack information on proper disposal of Menstrual waste. Women in rural areas dig pits, bury their menstrual waste in that pit, burn the sanitary napkins, or throw it in a dumping ground. Women who live near the river dispose of their sanitary napkins in the river by wrapping them in plastic bags or newspapers.
Consequences of Mismanaged Menstrual Waste:
The commercial Sanitary napkins made of absorbent material SAP (Super Absorbent Polymer), PE (Polyethylene) for the back cover to make it waterproof, and top sheet Polypropylene to keep it dry. We can see that the material use to create a sanitary napkin is artificial, and very few natural ingredients are use. When these sanitary napkins get use, it accommodates lots of germs in it. When the used hygienic napkins are held with bare hands by garbage pickers, there is an increased rate of contracting the diseases, namely HIV, Hepatitis, E.coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Tetanus.
As women in rural areas bury the sanitary napkins in the pit, it harms the naturality of the soil. The burning of sanitary napkins disturbs the air in the atmosphere. Flushing the sanitary napkins causes a blockage, and keeping it in open spaces increases the risk of getting affect by many diseases. Women who throw the used sanitary napkins in water pollute the water and harm aquatic animals’ health.
As we look up to many problems in a society, one must also light on Menstrual Waste Management. One must also ensure that the laws made for Menstrual Waste Management are imposed. Education regarding the use and disposal of sanitary napkins must be provided to women. Menstrual Waste Management should not be a Silent Problem. It is essential to talk and take necessary steps on this urgent issue to save the environment and the human being from various diseases.