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Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020: The need to tackle menstrual waste in India

By: Siya Bhatia

World Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed on May 28 every year. The main idea behind marking this day is to change the social stigma associated with menstruation.

The date May 28 was chosen to observe the day because on average the menstrual cycle for most women is 28 days and the menstruation period for most women is for five days. Hence, the date was kept as 28/5.

World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 theme is ‘Periods in Pandemic’. The idea behind choosing this theme is to highlight how the challenges faced by women during menstruation have worsened due to the ongoing pandemic.

Menstrual waste in India

Sanitary waste disposal is a huge problem in India.

Estimated waste load calculation in India (Developed
by Menstrual Health Alliance India)

An estimated 36% of the female population of reproductive age in India are using sanitary napkins, producing one billion used pads per month. But, they are not disposed off properly.

Studies have shown that one sanitary pad could take from 500 to 800 years to decompose as the plastic used is not biodegradable.

Most sanitary pad varieties used are made of cellulose, super absorbent polymers (SAP), plastic covering, and adhesives/ glue; many of these components do not decompose easily and remain in the environment (polluting soil and water sources).

Many areas lack routine waste collection mechanism

Rural India and many urban areas lack routine waste collection mechanisms. Used menstrual products (cloth and sanitary napkins) are often discarded in open fields and water bodies, buried or burned in the open.

Further, the unavailability of proper disposal facilities leads to girls using the pads for a longer duration than recommended resulting in unhygienic use, suggests anecdotal evidence.

What can be done?

A universally agreed way to effectively and safely deal with menstrual waste does not exist in India. However, menstrual waste management solutions should aim to tackle waste through the following approaches:

(Source: Menstrual Health Alliance of India)

Siya Bhatia

Siya Bhatia

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