It all started with the aim to make sanitary napkins accessible to each and every woman in India. A group of entrepreneurs started a project to deal with menstrual waste/hygiene in India. The initial idea was to make low-cost sanitary napkin vending machines that could be put up in all villages across India so as to make sanitary napkins accessible. But, with time they realised that while accessibility and women’s hygiene can be taken care off by this initiative, the waste that would be generated cannot be taken care of nor its adverse impact on our the environment. This realisation led to the team to work towards developing an eco-friendly solution and that’s how ‘Saathi’ pads came into existence.
Meet the founders – Kristin Kagetsu, Amrita Saigal, Grace Kane and Tarun Bothra who have today successfully developed an environmental friendly product – Saathi pads that are made out of Banana waste fibre and take just 6 months to decompose naturally.
Making of Saathi Pads
In 2015, Amrita, Kristin, Grace, the graduates from Massachusetts Institute of Technology got together and started the journey to find solutions to India’s growing menstrual waste woes. They met fellow co-founder Tarun Bothra who is an engineer by profession; together they conceived the idea and started working on the solutions.
We all always wanted to make something which is sustainable for India, what’s better than making a sanitary napkin which can decomposes naturally all by itself, said Tarun Bothra.
In 2015, the research to find an alternative to conventional pads was started by the founders. By the end of the year, the founders were ready with the prototype of the product and that was a 100% biodegradable sanitary napkin which was made using locally sourced banana fibre from the state of Gujarat, where Saathi is based.
We knew we will have to make an environmental friendly sanitary pad using natural fibres, since India is the second largest producer of bananas, we thought why don’t we use this as our by-product. We experimented the product and it came out to be a success, added Tarun Bothra.
One Product – Two Solutions
Since Saathi pads are made out of waste banana fibres, the need for this waste is there in the market. Saathi buys the waste from farmers and helps them earn more.
Saathi Pads Versus Conventional Pads
Believe it or not, every month around 1 billion of sanitary waste is being generated by the women in India. The conventional pads which 90% of women are using is made completely from plastic, these do not decompose, and add to the burden of landfills or water bodies. It is in short killing the planet!
Here is how Saathi pads make a difference!
Explaining the benefits of the 100% biodegradable Saathi pad, Tarun added, “When the saathi pad is decomposed in a controlled surroundings like in a soil through the process of composting then this pad can decompose naturally in 3 months, however, if a person just throws this pad away in the trash bin and because of that it makes it way to our landfills then this pad will naturally decompose in 6 months leaving no garbage patch in the environment.”
What’s more, unlike other conventional pads, these pads do not use any chemicals such as bleach and materials such as variants of plastic and rayon. Saathi pads are 100% eco-friendly.
In the conventional pads, the middle layer is made of wood pulp, to make that 100 of trees are cut regularly. Whereas Saathi pads are made out of banana waste which otherwise would have made its way into the trash bin. Moreover, in conventional pads, there is a use of lot of bleach, that’s the reason why wood pulp material looks so white. The bleach used is also a cancer causing agent, many studies have proved. In Saathi pads, there is no usage of such elements and that’s the reason why it has a traditional soft brown colour.
The cost of a saathi pad for urban user is Rs. 20 per pad and for rural people it is Rs. 5. One can buy these products through their online site. Saathi has also taken an initiative of providing 1,000,000 pads to rural women in Jharkhand.
Our aim is to cover all the states, cities of India. Jharkhand is the beginning of our initiative, till now we have distributed some 6000 pads in Jharkhand, added Mr Bothra.
Challenges On The Road To Innovation
Highlighting the challenges and the low accessibility and availability of these eco-friendly products, Tarun said, “One of the major challenges is lack of awareness and education regarding menstrual hygiene in India. The need of the hour is the government involvement then only eco-friendly products can get its due space in the market which is currently flooded with non-biodegradable products.”
In India, there is no recycling mechanism for the menstrual waste and the amount of waste being generated is on a continuous rise. As a conscious citizen it becomes our duty to fight growing menstrual waste – one small step can make a huge difference. Join the sanitary revolution and make this green switch!