How to dispose a sanitary napkin? Have you heard of organic/ biodegradable/ compostable sanitary pads? Can sanitary napkins be 100% compostable? Can disposable products be recycled? What should be government’s policy around disposal of sanitary napkin waste?
This blog is a part of a series of 5 articles with the aim of answering some of the above questions and creating a complete picture of the life cycle of products to drive collective action towards better health and better environment.
The market today has a wide range of products which claim to cause little to no harm to the environment and thus target the consumer who wishes to make a difference. But it might not hold much truth as the consumers are often unaware about the differences and specifications of each term used. Most of the times such sobriquets just act like bait and the well-intentioned buyers are thus fooled without him realizing it.
Biodegradable, Oxo-biodegradable, Bioplastics, Bio- based plastic, Biopolymer, Natural, Organic, Compostable
These are a few eco-friendly terminologies which are often used by brands to market their sanitary napkins and diapers. It affects the purchasing decisions of the consumers who are basically looking for products which will be good for the environment and affects their purchase decision. We will go through a simple explanation for each of these terms and try to make sense of their environmental impact.
Bioplastics, Bio-based plastic, Biopolymer
These terms refer to the origin of the product rather than what is going to happen when the product is disposed.
• The term bioplastics is used to describe biomass or renewable resource-derived and also fossil fuel-derived plastics, which are biodegradable.
• Bio-based plastic (also called as bio-derived or natural product) are plastics derived from biomass or renewable sources, instead of fossil fuels. It is a subset of bio-plastic material and it’s preferred that bio-based products be made from waste materials, as opposed to raw materials, to prevent additional environmental stressors and land use change.
Not all bio-based plastics are compostable, including bio-polyethylene (PE) and bio-polyamide (Nylon 11), which act similar to other petroleum-derived plastics. Bio-based PE cannot be differentiated from PE made from petroleum.
• Biopolymers are materials made by living creatures, and include chitin, lignin, cellulose, protein fiber and plant polyester, to name a few. Because these materials are made directly from living creatures, they are expected to be compostable, completely biodegradable, and ideally marine degradable within a reasonable timeframe.
Just like with bio-derived plastics, biopolymers can be processed in manner that makes them have the same long-lasting characteristics as petroleum-based plastics.
Hence, it is important to look which bioplastic material is being used and how it degrades when disposed.
Thus, knowing the subtle differences is highly important to become a conscious consumer. There might be any eco friendly sanitary pads in India but that can mean any of the above terms. Organic sanitary pads ought to be used on a large scale in the future to lessen the harmful effects it has to the environment.
In a country as densely populated as India, organic sanitary pads and the likes should be manufactured and sold more than the plastic ones. This is something that will not yield immediate outcomes but as time passes it will make us more sustainable as a community. Eco friendly sanitary pads in India should not be a luxury but normality.