Menstrual waste refers to blood, bodily tissues, and used menstrual absorbents, including cloth, disposable sanitary napkins and other materials used to capture or absorb blood during menstruation. However, menstrual waste management is a concern and should be addressed. Studies have shown that one sanitary pad could take from 500 to 800 years to decompose as the plastic used is not bio-degradable, and can lead to health and environmental hazards.
If we are the ones producing this waste, the responsibility falls on us to manage it in a sustainable way. Some potential solutions for menstrual waste management are:
1.Reduce waste volume: If we reduce the volume of the waste then it will lessen the amount of waste that is generated and has to be managed. We can do that by using alternative menstrual products such as reusable pads and menstrual cups.
2. Destigmatize the issue: Menstruators might dispose off the pads carelessly in their immediate surroundings to get rid of the ‘unpure’ waste without people around them knowing. If the stigma around the process is broken, proper disposal of the waste would become less difficult.
3. Red dot campaign: If we follow the practice of segregating our own waste simply by putting a mark on it then we can solve a lot of waste woes. But, there is also an urgent need for a system in which ragpickers can separate this waste and send it to be disposed off correctly.
4. Deep burial: Biomedical Waste Management Rules (2016) provides guidelines for deep burial that can be adapted for menstrual waste. An adapted protocol for deep burial has been developed by NEERI and Menstrual Health Alliance India. Thus, in order to be more friendly towards the environment, it is important to first be able to talk freely about menstruation. Only then will we be able to take more significant steps in the direction of managing menstrual waste properly.