More urban women are using hi-fibre sanitary napkins. The muslin nappy for babies has been replaced by thick diapers and none of these are biomedical waste , yet, are toxic. Waste pickers injure hand from pins and glass pieces. But the worst form of waste, sanitary napkins and diapers.
In an attempt to reduce these encounters with putrid filth, a square paper bag made from newspaper has been designed for the disposal of sanitary napkins. It has a sticker that announces its purpose; waste pickers thus need not unwrap it to see if it contains anything that could be sold. In 2009, a local organisation SWaCH (Solid Waste Collection and Handling) developed the bag, in consultation with its 1,867 members. SWaCH provides door-to-door waste management across three lakh Pune households. Aging or pregnant waste pickers, or women from slums, were taught to make the bags. A yellow sticker with text in Hindi and English was pasted. Each bag is sold for Rs. 1, and only packs of 50 are sold. A string originally meant to fasten the bag has now been replaced by an adhesive peel-off strip. A new origami fold makes the bag sturdier. There is a pink sticker instead of the yellow, bearing the universal symbol representing women.
Smita Rajabali, who has convinced several women in her 154-home housing society to buy these bags said, the most expensive sanitary napkin costs Rs. 8. We can surely spend another rupee for its safe and clean disposal. Aarti Patil, Principal of Vidyanchal School, has made it mandatory for female students and staff to use them. Similarly, Charuta Mahabale gifts these bags to women during haldi kumkum. “Most women are happy to learn about these bags.” says Mahabal. Maitreyi Shankar, business development manager at SWaCH, who has seen the evolution of the bag, says the door-to-door supply isn’t cost effective. Bulk purchase is a solution. So far, just one office of a software company has bought these bags. Layla Pathan and her daughter-in-law Shaheen make these bags in their slum dwelling. It takes 10 minutes to fold one, and Layla sometimes makes 100 bags through the day. They earn Rs. 25 from SWaCH for every 100 bags.
“Almost every waste picker is illiterate. How will he know what this bag is for? Even if he can read, he has no time. It is easier to tear apart the bag and see if its content can be sold as scrap hence there should be an image of the sanitary napkin on the sticker,” says Layla.
Source: The Hindu, 28 July 2012, Internet edition.