This school team from Kerala has made low-cost biodegradable sanitary napkins using aquatic weeds
The sanitary pad made from water hyacinth can absorb 12 times more water than a regular pad. The pad is also completely disposable or can be converted into compost.
Even today, in many parts of India, menstruation is considered a taboo. Menstrual health is often ignored and not discussed among others in the society. To give an insight, 23 million girls drop out annually from school due to the lack of menstrual hygiene management facilities. Lack of awareness of menstrual hygiene also leads to all kinds of serious health risks.
In rural areas, most women do not have access to sanitary products, and they know very little about the types and method of using them. So, they mostly rely on reusable cloth pads, which is usually unhygienic.
Finding a feasible solution to this problem for women in rural areas is a group of Class X students from Ahammed Kurikkal Memorial Higher Secondary School in Kerala. The team has made an eco-friendly sanitary napkin using water hyacinth, which can absorb water 12 times than a regular sanitary pad. Considered as the world’s worst aquatic weed, water hyacinth multiplies rapidly, and forms a dense layer over the aquatic surface, making aquatic life impossible.
The project was mentored by the students' biology teacher, Sarath KS. Speaking to NDTV about water hyacinth, he said,
“People across the world are already making coasters, lamp, rugs, and other items from water hyacinth. The question was, how will our innovation be different? The idea was simply to use waste and make something eco-friendly, and so we decided to make sanitary napkins.”
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The team consisted of E Aswathy, PV Henna Sumi, and S Sreejesh Warrier, who studied ways to produce sanitary napkins from the weed.
First, the team spoke to Khadeeja Nargees, an environmentalist, and the locals, and carried out laboratory experiments in their school. They conducted their study in areas such as Randathani, Kezhmuri, and Erkkara in Kerala, and studied four ponds where water hyacinth was present.
Explaining the steps, Sarath said,
“The second step was to understand the use and disposal method of sanitary napkins. To get clarity on it, the students spoke to health experts and did a small survey covering 100 houses. The survey revealed that 71 percent of households use sanitary napkins and 97 percent rely on plastic-based sanitary napkins. Also, while 48 percent burn the used pad, 11 percent flush it. The findings made it more crucial for us to produce bio-degradable pads and make everyone switch to it.”
In the final stage of the project, the students had to collect the weed, clean it, cut it, sterilise it, and repare an absorbent layer using weed stalk and cotton. Cotton was added on top and bottom of the absorbent layer and was sealed using beeswax. The team then passed the pad through UV sterilisation.
The sanitary napkin, which has not been released commercially, is currently awaiting patent. Sarath says, the disposable pads are priced at Rs 3, and can be turned into compost as it is made from natural products.
After winning accolades for its invention, the team also won the first position in Malappuram sub-district school science fair in Kerala, reports Mathrubhumi.
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