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Use-and-throw sanitary pads now have alternatives

No plastic:Sanitary napkins made by Gramalaya on display.

The presence of plastic in personal hygiene products is often hidden, yet regarded as an essential ingredient for cleanliness. Like in the case of sanitary napkins, it is the thin plastic layer that makes the product leak-proof.

But it is this very bit of concealed plastic that has also become the sanitary napkin’s biggest drawback. Municipal authorities across India are facing a problem of disposing soiled napkins whose plastic lining makes them non-biodegradable, and thanks to improper disposal, has contaminated water and soil systems.

Reusable pads

Non-governmental organisations and home-based innovators have started working on creating a more eco-friendly alternative through reusable cloth napkins.

In Tiruchi, NGO Gramalaya uses layers of jersey material (also known as ‘banian’ cloth) sourced from Tirupur’s hosiery units, in its ‘Feel Free’ brand of washable napkins that are stitched by tailors in self-help groups. The NGO has combined the promotion of Feel Free pads with its menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and toilet building programmes across India.

“With the help of HT Parekh Foundation, Mumbai, we have selected Kunnandarkoil block in Pudukottai district for distributing 10,000 packs of Feel Free cloth pads (each pack contains 4 pieces), worth Rs. 20 lakhs,” Gramalaya founder-director S. Damodaran told The Hindu .

Personal experience

For Puthur, Tiruchi-based B. Sumathi and her mother, personal experience led to their alternative to the commercial disposable napkin, which sells under the brand ‘My Flow’.

“We felt that the long-term exposure to chemicals and plastics in the disposable napkin was creating or exacerbating problems like heavy bleeding and infections, which were absent when we were using cloth pads,” said Ms.Sumathi.

With the help of online research, they narrowed down on pads that use biodegradable bamboo charcoal ash to line cotton cloth napkins, which Ms. Sumathi adapted to suit Indian customers. “I designed the pads for both regular and medical use, and had them manufactured in China. Currently, they are available on e-commerce platforms and our own website,” she said.

My Flow pads are said to last up to 5 years with proper maintenance and come at a starting price of Rs. 250 per piece.


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