Menstruation is a taboo in the country, and as such, it is difficult to have an open discussion about it. So, there aren’t many conversations about the kind of products which can be used during the period, and how the problem of sanitary waste can be tackled.
Niyati Mavinkurve, digital content creator shares, “Approximately 36 per cent of menstruators in India use disposable sanitary napkins. That translates to 121 million menstruators who go through an average of eight pads per cycle. That means the country stares at a total waste burden of 12.3 billion disposables.”
This is only our country’s figure. Unfortunately, the global figures don’t inspire much confidence either. She adds that an average woman is said to dispose of 14,000 tampons in her lifetime and directly or indirectly contribute to 300 pounds of sanitary waste. “All of this waste ends up generating 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, equivalent to driving 3 billion cars,” Mavinkurve explains.
Reusable sanitary options
There are two options for renewable sanitary waste products in India. These are cloth pads and menstrual cups.
Mavinkurve explains cloth pads are pads made entirely of cotton that replace a sanitary napkin. These pads can be washed after the cycle and then reused in the next cycle.
Available in different sizes, these have two variants. The thicker ones are for the usual or heavy flow and the thinner, smaller pads for light flow.
On the other hand, menstrual cups are those made of medical-grade silicone that have to be inserted into the vagina. “They sit into the menstruator’s cervix and collect period blood and have to be removed and inserted every few hours. Cups have to be sanitised in hot water before and after the cycle,” she adds. Check out our guide on using menstrual cups the right way here.
Which one to use?
This question depends on one thing — your access to water.
“The one disadvantage of reusable cotton pads is that they have to be washed thoroughly to ensure the period blood is completely washed off. For this, it has to be soaked in water and then washed with soap or detergent and then dried. That presupposes the availability of water to ensure the pads are cleaned,” adds the content creator.
While cups can be far easier to handle because they just have to be emptied into a toilet and then washed with water. Once the cycle is over, they have to be sanitised. This minimizes water use and can also be easily done while travelling as well.
Having said that, ultimately, the choice between a reusable cotton pad and a menstrual cup depends on the person. “Comfort is the prime factor here. Both cotton pads and cups are miles ahead of regular sanitary napkins in terms of the environmental impact and how they feel when used. What you should rather be thinking about is why you haven’t switched to a reusable option yet,” she adds.