Menstrual hygiene management: Informed product choice and disposal

MHM meeting in Lalpur, UP
Image: WaterAid/Dhiraj Singh


Launched ahead of Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019, WaterAid India’s brief report ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management: Informed Product Choice and Disposal’ aims to create awareness regarding the menstrual product landscape in India for women and girls to start making an informed choice as per their needs.

It highlights a three-way comparative analysis of menstrual products, including Disposable Pads, Reusable Pads and Menstrual Cups on various parameters including sustainability and the waste load of each product category. The comparative analysis shows that a sanitary pads user uses an average 6,120 disposable pads in her lifetime compared to a cloth pad user (136 reusable cloth pads) and a menstrual cup user (only 7 reusable menstrual cups over her lifetime).

Awareness generation on menstrual hygiene management has typically focused on the use of just sanitary pads. A vast majority of products reaching women and girls through government and large manufacturers are made primarily of non-compostable materials – materials that take hundreds of years to degrade. Apart from the amount of waste generated, when women and girls do not have easy access to disposal options, they tend to wear a pad for much longer than they should, putting them at risk for unnecessary and avoidable discomfort and health issues.

Largely, menstrual hygiene products, their disposal and appropriate waste management solutions are addressed in a silo. However, the choice of products and their waste management solutions are deeply intertwined.

Through this report, WaterAid India calls for ‘Informed Product Choice’, a woman or girl’s ability to choose a menstrual hygiene product drawing upon comprehensive and unbiased information on the product range, including their relative benefits and disadvantages, so that it meets their personal, reproductive health and socio-economic needs and realities.