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Menstrual Cup: The sustainable and eco-friendly period partner

Menstrual Cup: The sustainable and eco-friendly period partner

Even in 2020, most women in India trust the sanitary pads over menstrual cups. The Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India (MHAI) has approximated 121 million women and adolescent girls in India who use disposable sanitary napkins. May 28 is recognised as Menstrual Hygiene Day. In recent times, there have been several NGOs involved in spreading awareness and helping women manage their periods with dignity by introducing menstrual cups.

A menstrual cup is a flexible cup made of medical-grade silicone or rubber which sits in the vagina and collects blood unlike cloth, sanitary pads and tampons which absorb blood. Some cups are long-lasting and reusable, while others are disposable. There are a number of startups and online retailers who provide these cups in metro cities. A report written by Anjali Jain, Euromonitor International Analyst, Bangalore and Hilary Eng, Euromonitor International Analyst, Singapore, says the penetration of these products remains low in SEA markets and India as consumers lack good awareness and knowledge of such products.

The trend of using a menstrual cup is largely seen among college-goers and working professionals. They are inclined towards using it on the recommendation from peer groups, internet or colleagues, explains Dr Gayathri Kamath.

Supporting Dr Kamath’s views, Dr Kaberi Banerjee, medical director of Advance Fertility and Gynaecology Centre in New Delhi says that even in urban cities it is not much prevalent among women of late 30s, because they have a set notion about menstrual hygiene. “However, in the lockdown period, we have observed that there has been a marginal increase in the online purchase of menstrual cups and other personal hygiene products in urban as well as tier 2 cities,” she added.

Menstrual cups are not just sustainable in nature, but eco-friendly as well. Unlike sanitary napkins or tampons, they do less damage to the environment. However, it may not suit all age groups. Young girls who have just begun menstruating usually detest the process of using it, says Obstetrics & Gynecology at Fortis Hospital, Bangalore, Dr Gayathri Kamath. “Young unmarried rural girls may not be comfortable with the thought of inserting a tampon or a cup. The fear of disrupting the hymen and trauma which may ensue may deter them from using it,” she commented while talking to indianexpress.com.

A Lancet study states that there are 199 brands of menstrual cups available in 99 countries but awareness is low. Titled ‘Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, the study summarised preliminary evidence on the cost and waste savings associated with using menstrual cups suggested that over 10 years, a single menstrual cup could cost much less than pads or tampons. A cup could cost roughly five to seven per cent of the cost of using 12 pads (on average $ 0.31 each) or tampons (on average $ 0.21 each) per period. Over 10 years, a cup is estimated to create 0.4 per cent of the plastic waste generated by single-use pads or 6 per cent of that produced by using tampons, it further stated.

“A cup saves one from period hassles, rashes, skin infection, leakage and allows physical activity and can last for years together, decreasing waste creation. This translates into improved menstrual health and lowers waste creation. For women who might be hesitant to switch to cups, but are concerned for the environment, we have devised other solutions like biodegradable pads, tampons etc. For discreet waste disposal, Sirona also offers oxo-degradable disposal bags,” informs Deep Bajaj, Founder, Sirona Hygiene.

Menstruation is still considered as a taboo, as unclean and dirty in the rural areas of India. However, usage of menstrual cups can be a bliss for those who are in the rural areas in India in consideration to the shortage of water and safe disposal techniques still a challenge. “These cups can replace traditional ways of using grass, cotton wads, sponges, tissues and other absorbents. The purchasing as most of them are in lower-income groups and disposal is a big issue in these areas. The purchasing of incinerators becomes a challenge for some schools due to lack of funds or maintenance. Also, only 61% of these girls have access to sanitary latrines,” says Jiji John, Executive Director, Child Help Foundation, who works in these remote areas of in Jawhar Block in Palghar district, Maharashtra.

Sanitary napkin waste management

According to a joint report by Water Aid India and the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India, depending on the materials used in the manufacture of the sanitary pads, it could take up to 800 years to decompose a single sanitary napkin. To deal with menstruation in a healthy and hygienic manner, sustainability is the only way forward.

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