‘Sanitary products’ including condoms defined as non-biodegradable waste, new rules for disposal drafted

Indian sanitary waste disposal

How India dispose of condoms and sanitary napkins? The answer is too ugly to mention. Most of Indian society is very uncomfortable to answer such questions.

Sanitary Hygiene Management remains a taboo in Indian society. Availability of disposable sanitary pads, which are made of mainly LDPE plastic polymers, bleached wood pulp, and super-absorbent (polyyacrylate), means a lot of non-biodegradable material.

Nature, on the other hand, does not discriminate on the basis of such man made taboos. What nature has created must be attended without any social embarrassment. Every month, nearly 432 million females dispose of used sanitary pads. Majority of women in India hit a wall with this one particular aspect of their Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) – proper disposal of waste.

Most of it either end up in drains, in public toilets, or thrown privately somewhere in open. In some parts of India, the napkins are burnt in order to keep it a secret. In some communities, the cloths or napkins are buried. Incineration of sanitary pads releases toxic by-products. Health professionals have established that emission and ash from incineration of sanitary waste pose potential risk to immune, nervous, endocrine and reproductive system.

The truth is that the non-biodegradable solid waste from hygiene pads and disposable napkins is piling up huge mountains. It’s a big reason to worry.

India’s solid waste management has first time defined sanitary waste under a specific category. Sanitary ‘sanitary waste’ includes used diapers, sanitary towels or napkins, tampons and condoms.

It should have been done a lot earlier, but socio-cultural retrains are too strong to allow awareness regarding this natural process of a female body.

The Environment Ministry of India has come out with for management of solid waste, e-waste (electronic waste), plastic waste and medical waste. The draft clearly defines some do’s and don’ts for sanitary solid waste along with some by-laws for generation and disposal of other waste.

A section of the draft rules specified as ‘duties of waste generator’ asks the consumer to “wrap securely the used sanitary waste as and when generated in a newspaper or suitable biodegradable wrapping and then place it in the domestic bin placed for non bio-degradable waste or dry waste.”

For those who will not comply with these draft rules, the draft says, “All waste generators shall pay such user fee or charge or fines, as may be specified in the bye-laws of civic bodies for solid waste management.”

The draft also directs manufacturers to provide a ‘Deposit Refund Scheme’.

Local municipalities including sanitary workers will be educated and public awareness will be promoted.

The ministry is seeking public opinion and comments from experts regarding the most suitable measures to attend the issue of sanitary waste.

Local municipalities will be responsible for the implementation of draft rules for proper collection and disposal of sanitary waste. The local bodies are ought to facilitate establishment of common regional sanitary land fill for a group of cities and towns under the radius of 50 km or more from the regional facility on a cost sharing basis. The MCs will ensure professional management of such sanitary landfills.

However, the implementation of the draft rules for sanitary waste management is a paramount task considering the taboo associated with menstrual cycle and sanitary products. Indian society considers menstruation some kind of blasphemous act and females are supposed to be ashamed of it. Females must keep it a secret when it is not. This stigma is now creating hazards for ecology and exposing millions of garbage collectors, rag pickers, and manual scavengers to potential health risks.

The government will need to form a perspective plan in order to attend the issue. The government must formulate policies to introduce affordable and re-usable sanitary products. Presently, there is no sustainable option for females in India.

Via: Times of India

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