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Incinerator: The Silent Killer

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission by the Government of India, pad vending machines and small incinerators have been installed in schools, colleges, and public toilets to make menstrual hygiene easily accessible to women and girls and manage menstrual waste safely and effectively.

Multiple studies confirm that disposable sanitary pads contain up to 90% plastic, so when incinerated, they release toxic gases like other plastics, which severely pollute the environment and are a health hazard.

In India, incineration is used as a solution for safe disposal and effective management of menstrual waste. Pad vending machines and small incinerators have appeared in Ladakh as well, despite a good deal of rhetoric on carbon-neutral Ladakh. On one hand, this promotes plastic pads, which are harmful to the body and the environment, and on the other, it encourages the culture of waste burning, which is already endemic in the Himalayas.

To make the public aware of the dangerous impact of small incinerators on the environment and our health, we made a short film capturing the incineration of a plastic pad in a public toilet in Leh, Ladakh.

Small incinerators pose several problems. First, seeing the abundance of these small incinerators, one can surmise that there would be hundreds and thousands of them across the country, burning pads round the clock, altogether contributing massively to environmental pollution. Second, no one keeps a check on what is burnt in the small incinerators, as a result, the items burnt in them may not be only used pads but other wastes, such as plastic wrappers, paper, etc. Third, small incinerators do not reach high temperatures, which leads to incomplete combustion, releasing gases like carbon monoxide and causing severe air pollution. Moreover, their exhaust pipes release the smoke at a height where people end up inhaling the smoke directly.

Owing to the damaging impacts of incineration, individuals and communities worldwide have raised their voices against it. At Zero Waste Ladakh too, we denounce incineration as a false solution to the problem of menstrual waste. We see the real solution in shifting to reusable menstrual products, which do much less harm to the environment and are far better from a health perspective. Under our "Zero Waste. Period" project, we advocate for menstrual cups as a zero-waste and toxic-free alternative to the waste-generating single-use plastic pads. Our goal is to reach out to women and girls across Ladakh with menstrual cups and information and support on how to use them so that they can give up plastic pads, and the need to manage menstrual waste through incineration does not arise.

To know more about the project, visit here.

Are you still using single-use plastic pads? Then, switch to reusable menstrual products today!

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