When Aruna Kappagantula and Prashant Lingam of Bamboo House of India, a social enterprise for sustainable livelihood, saw a seven-year-old girl running her hand in a garbage yard, it led them to ponder for a solution – an incinerator project for disposal of used sanitary pads germinated.
“We decided to develop a simple, low-cost and effective model for incineration of used sanitary pads. It might not be a permanent solution as it releases pollutants, but if we carefully notice, the entire waste is anyway being burnt at central dumping yard,” says Prashant.
To overcome the problem, Bamboo House of India has developed a household as well as community level incinerator. Ranging between `7,500 and `15,000 in tune with Swacchh Bharat Mission, they are both electric and non electric models apart from a bigger-sized one which can be used at public places, schools, hostels and colleges etc..
“The incinerators can be placed at households, at public places, schools, hostels, community toilets etc. We already have started working at various levels to create awareness and installing incinerators so that we can give a better world to our children and push the government to find a better and permanent solution,” he adds and hopes, “The the government finds a permanent solution, till then we are hoping that our small solution will make some difference.”
Another prevalent practice is flush the used pads due to lack of availability of other means to dispose used pads and bringing the pad out of the house is still a major discomfort issue to Indian women. Flushing down used pads leads to clogging of drains which forces sanitation workers to manually get down the sewer lines and pull the used pads which apart from being inhuman is also a health danger. “Our manholes are not advanced. It does not have vents, fans, lights etc like developed countries, workers are forced to enter the manholes which at times leads to their death,” he claims.
The management of menstrual hygiene waste and EPR requires serious consideration on part of governments at all levels as it directly affects the dignity and health of millions of waste-pickers, both protected under the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The handling of menstrual hygiene waste with bare hands is a health hazard and an affront the dignity of waste workers across the country. Various labour laws also guarantee occupational health and safety measures for workers, however, in reality, there is no respite for waste workers as far as actual handling of sanitary waste goes. “Waste pickers separate soiled napkins from recyclable items by hand, exposing themselves to micro-organisms like E Coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, HIV and pathogens that cause hepatitis and tetanus,” he says and questions, “We refuse to understand that our waste is our problem, we should think twice and find our own ways and means to dispose our waste, just imagine will we let our children or any one of our family member touch our used sanitary pads, never, then how do we except someone else to do so.”