South Delhi Municipal Corporation
Date: March 15, 2020
Subject: Make the Delhi Government a global leader in designing new approaches for MH waste
It is with great interest that I write to you today. In continuation of the Government of India’s Clean India Movement, I would like to share with you some exciting possibilities that have links with clean environments, healthy communities, economic development, and preparedness for climate change. Added to this, there is a high chance that we can support agriculture communities rejuvenate their soil too.
You may be aware that there are approximately 336 million menstruating women in India, of which 36 percent use disposable sanitary napkins. It can, thus, safely be assumed that 121 million women are using sanitary napkins. Taking the number of sanitary napkins used per menstrual cycle at a conservative eight and calculating that for the year – India thus, has 12.3 billion disposable sanitary napkins to take care of every year a majority of which are not compostable.
However, inappropriate management of menstrual waste – especially disposable sanitary napkins – has significant environmental implications. For example, the common ways of dealing with menstrual waste include throwing it in open spaces, such as water bodies, fields, and roadsides; burying it, and (open) burning. In urban areas, most menstrual waste makes its way to landfills where untreated, it does not decompose. In rural areas, menstrual waste is discarded to fields and water bodies. Current estimates suggest 40 million tons of sanitary napkins are inappropriately disposed of in these locations. Low-quality and low-temperature incinerators in schools and communities are a popular way to manage menstrual waste, but this practice is costly and releases toxins into the air, and is contrary to India’s Central Pollution Control Board regulations regarding incineration.
Given the manifestation of climate change in different parts of India, including Delhi, I would submit to you to consider an approach that will make the Delhi Government a global leader in designing new approaches for managing menstrual waste such as the following.
Bring together experts to begin to evaluate the feasibility importance of testing the compostability of menstrual hygiene waste products including commercial sanitary pads including and the ability to remove non-compostable components. This should be followed by testing soil quality or residue quality post composting and costing analysis. Delhi already has very significant partners who would be willing to test a model in place.
I would also like to inform you that research organisations, non-governmental organisations and a few donors have been working on appropriate technologies and the momentum to scaling up this work has been going on for several years now. With your support and guidance, Delhi can prepare itself to be a leader in a neglected area and demonstrated leadership, as well as prevent outbreaks of serious disease, thus laying the ground for a better and healthier Delhi for all strata of society. By scaling up the composting of this ‘waste’ the State Government will also be showcasing the ‘waste to wealth’ cycle that would be targeted to support farmers in adjoining areas to cope with climate resilience by ensuring that their soil is better rejuvenated.
This is the need of the future. Delhi has to save every bit of its natural resources, conserve its water and aspire to convert every bit of waste into wealth!