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The Kenya Forum | Time to Rethink Menstrual Waste Management - The Kenya Forum

September 26, 2022

Summary

Although there is no sufficient data on the Health and environmental risks of menstrual waste, some studies cite that “when burned improperly toxic gases are emitted polluting the atmosphere, soil and water bodies, and thus affecting the food chain”.

More by Winnie Kabintie

Time to Rethink Menstrual Waste Management

Time to Rethink Menstrual Waste Management

As countries move to adopt policies aimed at advancing access to menstrual health, it’s also important to think about Menstrual waste management in the wake of climate change.

Approximately 25% of the world population are females aged 15 – 49. This makes menstrual waste management a crucial factor as far as public health and safe hygiene are concerned.

Menstrual wastes are mostly commercial disposable products such as pads and tampons. Disposable products consist of a mixture of materials, including polythene, cotton, rayon, polyester, cellulose and super absorbent polymers (SAPs). Most commercial products are bleached and scented, thus containing chlorine and other chemicals which have a detrimental ecological impact if not disposed of safely.

Experts are recommending the use of reusable and biodegradable materials in menstrual products as they are estimated to take a minimum of six months to degrade compared to plastics, which take several hundred years.

Reusable products such as cups, cloths, reusable pads or period panties, create significantly less waste, since their lifespan ranges between 1 and 10 years.

Although there is no sufficient data on the Health and environmental risks of menstrual waste, some studies cite that “when burned improperly toxic gases are emitted polluting the atmosphere, soil and water bodies, and thus affecting the food chain.

When menstrual waste is not burned, it often accumulates in open dumpsites and pollutes the local surroundings. It is estimated that menstrual waste causes 6.3% of sewage-related debris along rivers and shorelines. Just as other plastics this can lead to acidification and in the case of inland waters to eutrophication”. 

I found it, therefore, encouraging to see four Kenyan students feted for their innovation on making biodegradable sanitary pads using banana fibre.

The four students from Kenya’s St Paul’s University last week won the global finals of the 2022 Hult Prize, which comes with a $1 million cash prize to boost their street-up, registered as Eco-bana Ltd.

The team comprises Lennox Omondi, Keylie Muthoni, Dullah Shiltone and Brian Ndung’u. During their pitch, the young Kenyan changemakers told the jury that they predicted to “sell more than three million pads, generating over $50 million and employ more than 2,000 people by 2024,” 

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