Rochester Institute of Technology’s survey stated that an average woman uses between 12000 and 15000 pads, tampons, and pantyliners over her 450 periods. One sanitary pad has the plastic equivalent to five plastic bags, so one woman is using menstrual hygiene products equivalent to 60,000 – 75,000 plastic bags. Also, one sanitary pad takes up to 500 – 800 years to decompose. And remember these statistics are excluding the plastic wrapper of the sanitary pads, tampons, and the plastic applicator of the tampons.
Taking these figures into account, and considering that India has 355 million menstruators, two-thirds of whom use tampons and pads, women in India dispose of about 12 billion sanitary pads each year. If we bury them, they will not degrade and will add to the world’s plastic load in landfills and seas, and if we burn them, dangerous carcinogenic compounds such as furans and dioxins will be released. In our never-ending quest for betterment, we have unintentionally wreaked havoc on the planet. It’s past time for us to work towards a society where everyone has access to sustainable menstrual hygiene products.
Dr. Amodita Ahuja, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist say it’s a time to adopt green menstruation. Green menstruation refers to women who utilise biodegradable period hygiene products that are also environmentally beneficial. Menstrual cups, organic cotton-based pads, reusable cloth pads, and period panties are some of the products available. These solutions are not only environmentally sustainable but also cost-effective and beneficial to women’s reproductive and vaginal health as their use reduces the occurrence of rashes, vaginal infections, and new-age problems such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, and cervical cancer. Further, they are beneficial to vaginal and reproductive health.
The Indian government is working hard to give free menstruation products in schools and universities to all menstruators who cannot afford them. Instead of sanitary pads, it would be great to give and teach a girl how to use a menstrual cup, which would not only have a positive environmental impact but also contribute to the country’s economic prosperity.