Sanitary napkins with bamboo pulp score over regular pads

Published: Friday 31 August 2007

Sanitary napkins with bamboo pulp score over regular pads

In a first-of-its-kind venture in India, bamboo pulp is being used in the manufacture of sanitary pads as absorbing material, instead of the regular wood pulp. Bamboo pulp has advantages one, it is 300 per cent more absorbent and safer than wood pulp; two, it economises on the use of wood; and three, compost can be made out of it. The eco-friendly pads will hit the markets end of the year and will cost about the same as regular pads. Amita Malik of Delhi-based Shriram Institute for Industrial Research has developed them.

"Sanitary napkin companies use 10 gramme of wood pulp in each napkin. We are replacing it by bamboo pulp, which has antibacterial qualities. This will help resist irritations during the menstrual cycle," says Preet Tyagi, scientist at the manufacturing plant at Kudal in Sindhudurg district, Maharashtra.The National Mission on Bamboo Applications, a technology mission of the Indian government under the Department of Science and Technology, is supporting the project. It is being implemented by Konkan Bamboo and Cane Development Centre (konbac). Production of bamboo pulp-based sanitary napkins started since May 2007 in Kudal.

"We are doing a feasibility study (at the Kudal plant)," says Tyagi. According to Tyagi, the technology behind bamboo pulp napkins is simple and can be replicated elsewhere. The machine is manually operated and workers can pick up the skill of operating it easily.

There are two types of napkins being manufactured. One comes with polythene lining, which can be removed before disposal and the other with cotton lining, which is also eco-friendly and easy to dispose, says Vinay Tyagi, another scientist at Kudal. About 1,200 napkins are made every day and Vinay Tyagi says the capacity can go up three times more, depending on demand.

The product has been distributed in local hospitals. According to Anand Tendulkar, director konbac, women who used this new product were initially hesitant but were now comfortable using the napkins. "Women now say that they are as good as 'ultra' napkins," says Tendulkar.
Advantage bamboo "Bamboo has an advantage over wood because it can grow fast," says Sanjeev Karpe, director, konbac. "For 10 gramme of wood pulp, we end up cutting four times more wood. Bamboo will definitely save cutting of trees, if the model is implemented on a large scale," says an official of Whisper Sanitary Napkins on condition of anonymity. Around 80 companies in Mumbai at present are involved in manufacturing wood-based sanitary napkins. Says Perses Bilimoria of Mumbai's Earth Soul Company "If sanitary napkins are made from bamboo pulp then it will reduce 60 per cent of the waste problem of used napkins."
Easily disposable According to Almitra H Patel, member of Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Management, only compostable plastic films should be used in sanitary napkins. "Used napkins should come under biomedical waste. But since these are not included in the list of biomedical waste as per the Bio Medical Waste (Handling and Management) Rules, 1998, they are disposed in dumping grounds," says Bharat Nimbarte, regional officer, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.

Sandhya Mainkar-Nirgude, a Mumbai-based biologist, has successfully made compost out of used sanitary napkins after conducting all bio-hazard tests. "I removed plastic wrappers from the used sanitary napkins and mixed them with other solid waste, along with soil and red earthworms. Within 45 days the compost was ready and I have grown wheat grass on it," says Nirgude.

"We are giving 'specially designed used sanitary napkin collection bins' to over 1,500 offices in Mumbai. It is given for free the first time but replacement charges are Rs 250 per bin. All used napkins disposed in the bins are then taken to the dumping ground," says Nirgude, who works with Mumbai-based Pest Control of India Cannon Hygiene Services.

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