HYDERABAD: Menstruation is not impure, but the way people dispose sanitary waste certainly is. Much of it is mindlessly wrapped up into newspapers and discarded into bins. The people that are guilty of this are oblivious to the fact that the trash travels through several stages, including manual segregation, only to end up in mixed waste. For perspective, official figures suggest sanitary projects such as sanitary pads and tampons, and diapers constitute about 0.1-0.2 per cent of waste generated in Hyderabad (over 10,000 kg out of 5,800 metric tonnes a day).
There is no mechanism in place that ensures this waste reaches its final destination without contaminating other waste. Sandeep Kumar from the biomedical waste division of Ramky says, “It is basically biomedical medical waste so there is a chance that it can contaminate wet waste while being composted.”
Experts further add that the waste is mixed and handled by people in the organised sector -- sweepers, sanitation workers and raddiwalas (scrap collectors). The waste can adversely affect their health as well.
“The waste can also contaminate landfills. Since the waste is not segregated and ends up in a landfill, over the years leachate may be released into the ground and water bodies,” says Arun Kumar, CEO of Elemantra Enterprises, a waste management firm.
Experts note that the Bengaluru model is worth emulation. “In Bengaluru’s pilot project, residents were asked to throw all biomedical waste into a third bin. This waste was then safely transported to an incinerator where it was burnt at high temperatures (800oC), removing all possibility of contamination,” says Seshi Reddy, AGM Operations, Ramky in Karnataka.
Municipalities of Bengaluru and Pune also encourage women and families to dispose of waste in separate envelopes and mark them with a cross or a red mark, so that they can be sent to incinerators directly.
But will it work in Hyderabad? Officials say that the local sanitation workers have no monetary incentive to segregate residential biomedical waste, hence the intervention has to come from the government. “It has to come in the form of a policy change. Even if an individual segregates their waste, local waste segregators will toss it with other mixed waste,” adds Sandeep.