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According to advocacy group Menstrual Hygiene Alliance India (MHAI), assuming 36 per cent of women or girls in India use disposable sanitary napkins regularly at an average rate of eight sanitary napkins per month, 336 million menstruating women and girls use about 1 billion sanitary napkins per month, or 12.3 billion sanitary napkins annually. This works out to 33 million disposable sanitary napkins per day. Assuming the average weight of a soiled napkin is 11.3 g, with the average blood and other fluid loss per day during menstruation 8 ml and average weight of a sanitary napkin 10.5 g, India generates approximately 137,483 tonne of used sanitary napkins annually, or 377 tonne daily.

Out of these, only 28% menstrual waste in India disposed of with routine waste disposal methods or in dustbins.

Of this 28%, rural areas constitute 15% (the highest), followed by 10% from urban areas and 3% from slums.

The data provided by Menstrual Health Alliance India states that 45% of the menstrual waste collected across the country, primarily consisting of sanitary napkins, is disposed of as routine waste along with other household garbage. The data goes on to add that in urban areas, 28% of menstrual waste is thrown in open spaces such as rivers, wells, lakes and by the roadside, 28% is burnt and 33% is buried.

The maximum usage of commercial pads takes place in urban areas at 38%, followed by cloth, which constitutes 35% of products used during menstruation.

If menstrual waste of an HIV patient is not disposed of properly, a segregation worker can be affected by the virus too.

According to the rule book on bio-medical waste, sanitary waste is not covered under bio-medical waste, whereas it should be, because this waste should neither go in wet waste or dry waste.

Arundati Muralidharan, manager — policy, at WaterAid India, who was part of the team that compiled the data, said, “It is widely known that incinerators release the most amount of toxins, but there is no data available to find out whether they are used properly.

There are talks about increasing access to sanitary hygiene products from 18% to around 25%, but that would increase the burden when it comes to waste disposal. However, no one is really talking about it because people are not aware.

According to experts, the half-life for disposal of a sanitary napkin is 110 years. Those who have been a part of the research suggested that opting for biodegradable pads, menstrual cups or cloth would reduce the burden on those concerned with disposal of these products.

There is no clarity on whether sanitary napkins should be classified under bio-medical waste or dry waste, also there is no awareness regarding the disposal even among those who stay in societies, whereas in slum areas it is usually thrown in nullahs.

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