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Zero Waste. Period

A health and environmental project

A project to educate women and girls in Ladakh on periods and menstrual hygiene, create awareness on the impacts of single-use menstrual products on health and the environment, advocate for menstrual cups as a “No Rash, No Cash, and No Trash” solution to the problem of menstrual waste from single-use menstrual products, and enable to switch to menstrual cups.

Zero Waste Period poster.jpg

Project developed by: 
      Delnaaz Irani (irani.delnaaz@gmail.com)

Implemented by: 
      Zero Waste Ladakh 

Supported by: 
      Municipal Committee Leh (MCL)
      District Panchayat Office (DPO) - Leh 

Implementation area: 
      Ladakh, India 

Project period: 
      May - July 2023 

Budget: 
      3,00,000 INR approx. 

Objectives

  1. To educate women and girls about periods and menstrual hygiene. 

  2. To create awareness about the harmful impacts of single-use sanitary pads on health and the environment.

  3. To create awareness of sustainable menstrual products and enable the switch to these products.

Background 

Single-use sanitary pads contain plastic and chemicals, which cause rash and other health-related issues. Single-use sanitary pads are a substantial recurring cost, which women from economically weak backgrounds can ill afford. In addition to these, single-use sanitary pads generate massive quantities of waste, which is a tremendous hazard to the environment since there is no way to treat the waste other than by incineration. 

On average, a female uses about 20 pads per period, which means she generates about 240 pads a year and nearly 10,000 pads in her lifetime, considering the average age at which women hit menopause in the United States. 

Menstrual Waste load.png

Source: WaterAid, Menstrual Health Alliance India, Development Solutions Inc. (September 2019), “Menstrual Waste Management”. 

Menstrual waste disposal is a massive problem in Ladakh. Most women dispose of used single-use sanitary pads by burning, burying them, throwing them in the open or water bodies, and flushing in the toilets. When thrown in the waste collection truck, they contaminate other wastes and pose a health risk to waste workers.

Incinerating menstrual waste is also not a solution as it produces carcinogenic gasses, like dioxins and furans, because single-use sanitary pads have 90% plastic.

 

To address the problem of menstrual waste, the most effective and long-lasting way is education and awareness for minimizing and preventing menstrual waste: women and girls can be educated about the health and environmental impacts of single-use sanitary pads and be enabled to switch to sustainable alternatives, like menstrual cups. 

The menstrual cup does not contain plastic or chemicals. It is hygienic and healthy. A cup can last for up to 10 years. Switching to the menstrual cup can unburden a woman financially from buying pads monthly and end her menstrual waste footprint for life. 

Activities

  1. Developing Outreach Materials  
    With the help of field visits and interviews, information will be gathered about the current practices of menstrual hygiene management and menstrual waste disposal in Ladakh, based on which, outreach materials will be developed, addressing the topics: 

    • periods and menstrual hygiene, 

    • health and environmental impacts of single-use sanitary pads, 

    • usage and benefits of sustainable menstrual products. 
       

  2. Conducting Awareness Sessions 
    Using the outreach materi
    als, a series of awareness sessions will be conducted with women and girls in Ladakh.
    The structure of the awareness sessions is as follows: 

    • Start with the subject of female anatomy and why menstruation happens.

    • Presentation on the subject of menstrual products, including a comparison between single-use products and reusable products. Introduction to the menstrual cup and how to use it with a live demo.

    • Video introduction by Dr Meenakshi Bharath 
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3DfVgZstWw&list=PPSV

    • Demonstrate the cup on the uterus model and get the participants to feel the cup in their hands to encourage them to ask questions. 

    • Go over the common issues faced by new cup users and how everyone has different experiences with it.

    • Experience and knowledge-sharing by cup users present in the session.

    • Sale/distribution of cups to the interested participants after they demo it on the model.

    • Collect contact details of participants for follow-up interaction.

    • Invite participants to fill out a questionnaire for project related data collection.

    • Get feedback from participants after the session to know their initial response.
       

  3. ​Follow-up Support 
    While the first challenge in switching from single-use sanitary pads to menstrual cups is a lack of information and awareness among women and girls about the same, the second challenge is the lack of support that can enable them to overcome difficulties in becoming menstrual cup users. 

    Many interested cup users cannot transition because of problems in using the cup initially. As a result, they give up on their effort and do not get to experience the comfort, freedom and joy of hygienic an
    d zero-waste periods. 
    Therefore, after the awareness sessions and distribution/sale of menstrual cups to participants, they will be provided support for up to 3 months through WhatsApp groups, phone calls, video calls and in-person meetings, to help them overcome difficulties and switch successfully to menstrual cups. 

Monitoring, Evaluation and Impact Assessment

  1. Outreach 
    The more women and girls reached out through the project, the higher the overall impact of the project. Even though some participants who join the awareness sessions might not use the menstrual cup, they would at least acquire knowledge of the hazards of single-use sanitary pads and can be a medium of passing on that knowledge to others. They might even consider switching to the menstrual cup at a later stage. To monitor the project outreach, a record  will be maintained of the number and details of the participants joining the awareness sessions. 

     

  2. Switch
    The number of participants who buy/get the menstrual cup after the awareness sessions will indicate how many understood and felt convinced of the benefits and need of giving up single-use sanitary pads. Out of that number, some might not use menstrual cups eventually, yet opting for the cup is evidence of their understanding and intention to change and can be taken as an impact created. The 3-month support following the education and awareness sessions will yield precise figures of how many switched over successfully to menstrual cups. Based on those figures, it is possible to calculate the menstrual waste generation prevented in a month/a year/a village. These two data sets would show the most tangible impact of the project. 

References

  1. Biswas, Atin and Shailshree Tewari (2022), “Sanitary Waste Management in India: Challenges and Agenda”, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. Accessed at: https://www.cseindia.org/sanitary-waste-management-in-india-challenges-and-agenda-11282

  2. Mahajan, Tanya, Sumati Joshi and Arundati Muralidharan (December 2021), “Landscape of Menstrual Products in India,” UNFPA, WaterAid India. Accessed at: https://www.wateraid.org/in/sites/g/files/jkxoof336/files/2022-03/Designed%20Version%20-%20Menstrual%20Product%20Landscape.pdf

  3. Mahesh, Priti Banthia and Dr. Amit (2022), “Wrapped in Secrecy: Toxic Chemicals in Menstrual Products,” Toxic Links, New Delhi. Accessed at: https://ruralindiaonline.org/en/library/resource/wrapped-in-secrecy-toxic-chemicals-in-menstrual-products/

  4. WaterAid (May 2019), “Menstrual Hygiene Management: Informed Product Choice and Disposal”. Accessed at: https://www.wateraid.org/in/sites/g/files/jkxoof336/files/informed-product-choice-and-disposal_1.pdf

  5. WaterAid, Menstrual Health Alliance India, Development Solutions Inc. (September 2019), “Menstrual Waste Management”. Accessed at: 
    https://www.wateraid.org/in/sites/g/files/jkxoof336/files/menstrual-waste-management.pdf

  6. Mahesh, Priti and Dr. Aakansha Mehrotra (2021), “Menstrual Products and their Disposal”,  Toxics Link, New Delhi. Accessed at:
    https://toxicslink.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Menstrual%20Waste%20Report.pdf

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