Every girl, when she hits puberty, gets her periods. Well, the problem isn’t very much, apart from those cramps and mood swings, but the most serious trouble is the disposing of used sanitary napkins, which by the way can be very harmful to the environment.
Apart from those cramps and mood swings, the most serious trouble is the disposing of used sanitary napkins, which can be very harmful to the environment.
Also, there is so much shame and weird shyness in going to a shop and saying that you want a pad packet that a great person had quoted, ‘We are still selling shame with menstrual products‘
Firstly, we will look at a bit of history.
Now, in the pre 20s, US women used to use scarps of fabric or soft strips of bark as their sanitary napkins. Around the world, widely rabbit fur or sheep skin, rags, knitted pads were used.
The first sanitary napkins were actually disposable and invented by Benjamin Franklin, but they were made to wound soldiers for their gunshots during wars. Johnson and Johnson later introduced the Lister’s Towels, a resuable sanitary napkin and finally, the first disposable pad was by Kotex in 1921. By the 1990s, absorbing gels were used. In fact, the first menstrual pad was invented by Mary Kenners, who was a black American inventor!
Then came tampons!
Tampons were introduced in 1933. They were good but with a small problem-The tampon case, the tampon string, both are made of plastic. The tampon itself sometimes had bits of plastic! Besides this, it is still widely used. Why? Because very few know it has plastic!
The foremost point is that the sanitary napkins too have plastic. The absorbent part or the absorbent core consists of superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) and at times dioxins. And what are these anyway? Now SAP is an absorbent that absorbs liquid more than its own weight and in sanitary napkins it is used and it converts the liquid to an absorbent gel. It is non-toxic and good, but one huge problem is as it touches the most sensitive portion, it can cause toxic shock syndrome and reproductive issues.
Also, sanitary napkins use cotton right, but cotton has a creamish shade whereas the sanitary napkins look pure white. The manufacturers use chlorine dioxide to bleach them white and pure, but it inturn creates a by-product called dioxins. And also, the cotton isn’t grown organically. It is grown using so many pesticides and those stay after harvest. These dioxin can mix with blood, causing dangerous cancer or even reproductive problems! Sometimes they don’t even use cotton and go for rayon! So SAPs were banned from tampons at least in the 1980s.
Any guesses about how much time a sanitary napkin will take to decompose? Weeks, months, well, 500-800 years!
Also, you know, in Bihar 60 percent of women throw their used pads on open defecation grounds. In West Bengal, a few were interviewed, and 78 percent of those interviewed buried or decomposed a pad and two percent of those interviewees burned them!
Many women in rural areas would throw off the used sanitary napkins near drains, roadside and ponds. The waste collectors would ‘Hand Pick‘ without gloves or masks from those places and if you think you are doing great work by wrapping your used pad in paper and throwing it, well you aren’t at all. You are just preventing bad odour. Else, nothing. Because those pads will be decomposed with that wrapper and then it will take more time to decompose. And the actual decomposition should be done by ripping open the used pad and separating the cottony and plastic portions, but it is very disgusting to even think of it.
And all this leads us to two amazing alternatives to get away from the horrors of sanitary napkins! They are:
- Menstrual Cup.
- Cloth Pads.
A menstrual cup is a good idea as, firstly, it doesn’t have an interrogation of how to dispose it because it can be reused and has to be reused. It is made up of flexible rubber or silicone and is approximate the size of your palm. And you can watch videos on YouTube on how to do it. It may be a little awkward for initial usage, but once you get used to it, great!
So if you are switching to menstrual cups, then wash the cup with plain water and wipe with tissue. See if it is properly dry and then store it in a cotton bag. No air tight containers please.
Another great alternative is cloth pads!
Now, initially, all used this only, but now these pads are made using bamboo fibres, organic cotton, some with sugarcane, corn or cassava. It’s easy to use and a one-time investment!
It’s such a good option-it is good absorbent, you can change it the same number of times you change the now using sanitary napkins, it’s reusable and has to be washed and stored, so you can use the same cloth sanitary pads for four years! No disposing problem. No odour problem!
Okay, so I recommend you save your pocket money or borrow a bit from your parents, go to Amazon, and pick up the cloth pads of your brand choice. Here are some good options:
Now they are to be used again and again. They are to be very well washed. So here is what you have to do:
Firstly, just soak your new cloth pad in water so that the fabric softens, dry in sunlight and wear it for the first time. Now see they don’t have adhesives, they just have wings with those click buttons!
After you use the cloth pad:
Soak the used one in cold water for 30mins with the used side facing down. Then wash without a brush. Using powder detergents or soap and just brush the fabric with itself and if there are stains, no problem, also order a peroxide bottle from Amazon and sprinkle it a bit while washing. Then dry them in good sunlight. And taddaa! They are done!
If you have a bad odour by chance in them, then use some white vinegar or lemon juice while washing!
If you are out and not in a state to wash this all, No problem again, these pad packets also give a small purse shaped thing which is waterproof inside and you can fold your used cloth pad and store it in it. And if you don’t have any, then keep the used one in a ziplock. See, it is a bit tiring but this Covid has taught us good about washing well. It will soon become your routine.
Come on you can go for it!!
Do you know that Goonj is a Non-profitable Organisation in India and they started this ‘Not just a piece of cloth‘ campaign and collected old clothes and made pads from them and gave it to the village women and made them understand how to wash and all. They named it My Pad and it was very low priced. Such good!