Dignity in a bag

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 The muslin nappy for babies has been replaced by thick diapers and none of these are biomedical waste , yet, are toxic.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 A string originally meant to fasten the bag has now been replaced by an adhesive peel-off strip.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.

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Conversion of kitchen waste into fertilizers

Recently, a city based non-governmental organization Janadhar has taken an initiative to convert kitchen waste into fertilizers and the first stock of three tonne fertilizer was supplied to farmers from Mulshi tehsil of Pune district. The kitchen waste and huge piles of dumped vegetables at the wholesale market will no longer be the food for stray animals in the city. It is going to be processed and converted into low cost fertilizer for farmers.
The organisation also claimed that the fertilizer is rich and eco-friendly as it does not have any synthetic chemicals that affect the soil texture. The organisation is also keen to take up this project on a large scale and utilise maximum biomass generated in the city for producing fertilizer. The city receives huge supply of leafy and fruit vegetables every day, but a section of it goes waste during its handling. This biomass is generally dumped and stray animals feed on it. Lalit Rathi, vice president of Janadhar said, “We decided to process the waste and test the nutritional value of the fertilizer. We consulted Prakrut Krushi Kendra for better use of the dumped biomass and kitchen waste. The experiment was successful and the fertilizer is produced at much lower cost. We contacted farmers from Mulshi and offered them the organic fertilizer.Farmers also responded positively and we decided to supply the fertilizer to farmers.”
Sujit Chakravarti from Prakrut Krushi Kendra said, “The cost of the fertilizer we have produced is, Rs 3 per kilogram. The current average rate of fertilizer is Rs 22 per kg, though there is a heavy subsidy from the government. The cost of conversion is also not very high, and raw material like biomass and kitchen waste is easily available.” The collected biomass is first crushed, processed and then dried to remove the moisture. The dried material is the organic fertilizer which can be supplied to plants directly or in combination-as per the requirement, he said.

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