Sanitary Waste - How can sanitary waste (diapers and used sanitary pads) be managed, treated and disposed off?

  • F H Mughal
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Sanitary Waste

Sanitary Waste

Sanitary waste is a major problem in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Sanitary waste includes diapers and used sanitary pads. They are seen in garbage dumps, giving off a very unpleasant sight. Some say that these constitute bio-medical waste, and accordingly, should be treated as hospital waste. Here, they form part of municipal solid waste.

How can the sanitary waste (diapers and used sanitary pads) be managed, treated and disposed off?
Any comments?

F H Mughal

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  • muench
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Re: Sanitary Waste

I would say they can safely be disposed in properly managed sanitary landfills or in solid waste incineration plants where they exist. Diapers (nappies) and sanitary pads are just part of household waste, not medical waste (unless they are collected in a hospital setting).

Some parents in the global North are using reusable (washable) cotton nappies for their children but that's a fair bit of work. The amount of waste from disposable sanitary pads can be reduced by switching to menstrual cups or reusable cloth menstrual pads.
More information about those on Wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cup
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloth_menstrual_pad

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  • ratidzaishe
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Re: Sanitary Waste

These can be disposed off by recycling the plastic and then having the biodegradable waste treated for biogas production.
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  • kimgerly
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Re: Sanitary Waste | A second life for soiled diapers?

This popped into my email inbox a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps some information can be gleaned from this?

www.greenbiz.com/article/pgs-circular-ec...ater-and-yes-diapers

I think a big challenge will depend a great deal on one's geographical access to feedstock predisposition. Back in 2005, Knowaste in Arnhem, NL, who has been in business since 1999, had to stop disposable diapers recycling due to issues with sourcing feed stock. Altho, in the read in the the link I provided, they claim they can make this recycling work in the UK.

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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: Sanitary Waste | A second life for soiled diapers?

Dear all,

These can be disposed off by recycling the plastic and then having the biodegradable waste treated for biogas production.


In practice that would require separating the plastic from the content, which is not a pleasant job.

In one of my many sideline jobs we tried vermi-composting of both menstrual pads and diapers. The idea being that once all the material inside had been degraded by the worms, the plastic could then be easily sorted. However, we did not have a lot of success. I think it is because the manufacurers of these products add chemicals to the cotton padding to make it more absorbent.

I think this probably an issue where the solution needs to come from developed countries. Somehow, we need to reduce plastics and come up with products that are easily biodegradable. This is true for all the disposables we use. For menstrual pads and diapers there is are obvious challenges with comfort for the user and price, but innovation is badly needed for affordable, workable and degradable plastic substitutes.

Marijn Zandee

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  • blevira
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Re: Sanitary Waste

Greetings!
Though its late, I find my self unsettled if not contributing to this interesting caution :). Sometimes management of sanitary wastes is very challenging when cultural considerations are also mingled in some societies. In our country women don't want their sanitary pads to mix as they believe mixing will bring bad luck to these women. Women here also believe that if their children diapers are exposed to other people might also lead to their children getting into health problems. So at the end of the day, sanitary waste is damped into pit latrines as incineration is still not a reliable option. So sanitary waste is a very challenging issue here!

Beda Modest Levira
Environmental engineer and researcher
Ifakara Health Institute (IHI)
Tanzania, East Africa
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