Sanitary Pad and Plastic Waste

Sanitary Pad and Plastic Waste

Is green menstruation possible in India? One disposable sanitary pad could take 500 to 800 years to decompose and leads to environmental and health problems.

 India has 12.3 billion disposable sanitary napkins to take care of every year which will keep on increasing every passing year, majority of which are not biodegradable/compostable.

Menstrual waste disposal has become an increasing problem in India as the plastic used in disposable sanitary napkins are not bio-degradable and lead to health and environmental hazards. The impact is more pronounced because of the unorganised ways of municipal solid waste management and poor community collection, disposal and transportation networks in the cities and villages.

Sanitary Pads Waste Management

When large quantities of non disposable waste end up piling up the fields and water bodies, it can cause long term deterioration of water and soil quantity. Hence, if this gets disposed untreated in the environment there is a risk of building a reservoir of pathogens in the environment.


Small Scale Incineration

Various type of small scale incinerators exist in India and are appropriate for the sanitary pads without SAP, sanitary napkins that are certified compostable and cloth pads. The combustion at high temperatures converts waste into harmless gases and incombustible solid waste.

Incineration must occur in the safe environment to avoid the emission of hazardous gases like dioxins and furans. Inadequate structures, low burning temperature, insufficient waste volume, poor emission control and inappropriate waste segregation. The other initiatives to minimize the impact on the environment are-

  • The location should be at the place which is outside the reach of the residential areas to avoid any impact on the living beings
  • Optimum waste volumes are required for proper combustion. Hence, it should be designed keeping in mind the estimated waste volume
  • Constructed with appropriate materials like single or double chamber, appropriate height to minimize gases
  • Follow the guidelines of the Central and State pollution control boards


It is the process of complete degradation due to biological process which yields carbon dioxide, water and other inorganic compounds in a defined period of time, without visible, toxic and distinguishable residue.  Appropriate to decompose the sanitary pads without SAP, sanitary napkins that are certified compostable and cloth pads. Plastic is not compostable as it take 700-800 years to decompose. This initiative can be undertake to household, community and institutional levels. The regular compost pits, bio-digesters, vermi composting and possible composting solutions

Pits and digesters dimensions must be according to the waste and can be covered with a sheet to stop excessive water and trap the heat for faster composting. Organic materials need to be added facilitate decomposition.

The product claiming the composting should be tested according to the parameters being developed by ISO 17088.

The Oxo-biodegradable products are not compostable and only break down into micro plastics.

Benefits of Reusable Sanitary Pads

  • Reduce plastic use
  • Reduce energy use
  • Have less toxins
  • Will save money
  • Will save water
  • Better than disposable sanitary pads
  • Will be more gentle on the screen and avoid the skin conditions while menstruating