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Menstrual Hygiene Day: Switch to reusable menstrual products to save the environment

Reusable menstrual products are the new demand and NGOs from across India have started making options for women to help reduce the burden of non-biodegradable products on the environment.

more lifestyle Updated: Jun 04, 2017 18:40 IST
Henna Rakheja
Reusable sanitary napkins, made by NGOs in India, are gaining popularity among Delhi’s women too.
Reusable sanitary napkins, made by NGOs in India, are gaining popularity among Delhi’s women too.

May 28 is World Menstrual Hygiene Day and the world is talking about the significance of menstrual hygiene. Akshay Kumar’s next film, Pad Man, which is based on the women’s menstrual health, is also in the news now. Let’s not forget that disposable sanitary napkins are non-biodegradable and lead to health and environmental hazards. They are also used in landfills.Therefore, people are now opening up to the idea of reusable menstrual products.

Well, your first reaction might be of disgust, but later you will not regret this decision. From time immemorial, the use of cloth in place of sanitary napkins is known to Indians. With time, however, the neatly packed and high-priced disposable sanitary napkins have taken over the retail market and the psyche of a society that still deals with the topic of menstruation in hushed tones.

“Men think menstruation is an issue for women and women think it’s related to sex. Thus, it’s often not discussed, especially in the rural areas and small towns,” says Om Prakash, program manager at Udaipur-based NGO Jatan Sansthan, which makes Uger Pads — reusable sanitary napkins. Shaped exactly like the usually marketed products, these pads are made of cloth with two buttons switched at the back that ensures the pad is attached to the undergarment.

Reusable sanitary napkins, made by the NGO, Jatan Sansthan.

Prakash informs that according to a research in the city of Udaipur (which has approximately 5.5 lakh population), it was found that 80% of the garbage comprised diapers and sanitary napkins. So the burden of this big share of non-biodegradable garbage in big cities such as Delhi can be easily calculated.

One Uger pad can be used and washed, 45 times, in normal tap water. — Om Prakash from Jatan Sansthan

Also, in a family, suppose there are three women, the cost of their total purchase of sanitary napkins can go up to a lakh per annum. “You can use old cotton clothes and make a pad at home. It won’t cost more than eighty rupees. Some women face allergies after using sanitary pads available in the market, yet keep using them for the lack of an alternative,” says Prakash, whose organisation provides a pack of two reusable pads [including transportation] for Rs 240. “One Uger pad can be used and washed, 45 times, in normal tap water,” he adds informing how they conduct training for small groups of women to make napkins for their families and friends.

A group of women make reusable sanitary napkins with cloth, in Bhopal. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT Photo)

Most of these NGOs or organisations sell their wares online. “In the beginning, we saw a rise in demand in some countries outside India. mainly, This is because there is more awareness on this issue in such countries. However, we have seen a 40% growth in the last year in our domestic online shop sales (across India) and 25% growth in sales with our domestic retailers as awareness of eco-friendly products in our country has increased,” says Laura from Eco Femme, based in Auroville, who sell manufactured pads in 23 countries.

While a reusable sanitary pad is recommended to be changed in every four to five hours, a menstrual cup needs to be removed-washed-reinserted every eight hours and a good quality menstrual cup can possibly last for an entire menstrual age of a female!

A menstrual cup kit, packed and delivered by Rustic Art.

“In retail, especially in North India, very few people like to keep it for the customers,” says Sunita Jaju, founder, Rustic Art. She adds, “The demand of the silicon menstrual cup did go up every now and then. But it’s not always the same.”

We get a lot of orders from Delhi. But the demand is higher in Bangalore because people here, I believe, are more environment-friendly. — Bharti Kannan, founder, Boondh

However, the concern for the environment is higher in the southern states of India as compared to the Capital, according to some NGOs. “We get a lot of orders from Delhi. But the demand is higher in Bangalore because people there are more environment-friendly,” says Bharti Kannan, founder, Boondh. She started the NGO about a year and a half ago with the motive of creative sustainable menstrual cups. “When we conduct sessions, out of 100 women, 40 switch to it immediately. The rest follow when they receive positive feedback from their peers,” adds Kannan informing that a silicon menstrual cup costs Rs 500 and depending on the maintenance, it’s estimated life span is much more than 10 years.

This Menstrual Hygiene Day and International Women’s Health Day, are you also thinking of the environment alongside hygiene?

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