Saathi has developed the world’s first 100% biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made from waste banana tree fiber.
Lack of access to sanitary pads is a critical women’s rights issue: it is a leading reason for higher school dropout rates of girls than boys, results in lost income from days off work, and is one of the main causes of UTIs and other infections. However, if every woman in India started using disposable sanitary napkins, it would cause an environmental crisis. Commercial pads contain toxic chemicals which are released into the environment when disposed of, and clog waterways or collect in landfills without breaking down. Saathi believes that we do not have to compromise between the health of women and the health of the environment.
However, if every woman in India started using disposable sanitary napkins, it would cause an environmental crisis. Saathi believes that we do not have to compromise between the health of women and the health of the environment.
With only 16% of Indian women using sanitary pads (the rest use old rags, mud and bark), a staggering 108,000 tons of sanitary pad waste is created annually– enough to cover a landfill spread over 24 hectares. The Indian government is determined to increase sanitary pad usage given that the lack of access to affordable sanitary pads is the leading reason for higher dropout rates of school aged girls as compared to boys. As more women become aware about proper feminine hygiene practices and especially as more women in rural areas start using pads, sanitary pad waste will increase drastically.
In many parts of India, women do not have the proper means to dispose of sanitary pads. This lack of reliable disposal systems causes many women to either bury or burn their sanitary pads. Burning pads exposes women themselves and their environments to toxic chemicals from plastics/additives in the pad. In the cases where disposal systems exist, pads are put into landfills, in which they will sit for over 800 years. It is estimated that the average women generates 120-150kg of sanitary pad waste in her lifetime. This is not a trivial amount, so looking to the future as sanitary pad usage is increased in India, access to affordable, biodegradable, non-toxic pads is essential.