IIT Delhi

IIT Delhi incubated startup Sanfe launches reusable sanitary pads

Delhi | India

India's menstrual hygiene might be becoming better, but this is causing increasing harm to the environment. An IIT Delhi innovation could take care of this in a simple yet effective manner.

Some estimates put the total number of sanitary napkins used by Indians at 10-12 billion pieces per year - yes, billion. Now, in itself this number should not cause any alarm because India also has over 600 million women. The problem is that a majority of these sanitary napkins are not biodegradable or compostable. Essentially, most of these end up in our landfills and rot there for ages.

Now, only about a third of the menstruating women in India use sanitary napkins, though that percentage is fast increasing thanks to awareness. So imagine a decade later when the number of sanitary napkins disposed could be twice what it is today - about 25 billion sanitary napkins every year that could taken many decades, or even over a century, to degrade fully. Ironically, a humongous environmental sanitation problem resulting from improved personal sanitation! (By the way, USA generates about 20 billion such items every year, but these are handled and disposed of in a far more secure manner there. A challenge to the US too, but a far more alarming challenge to India)

Ordinary plastics rotting in landfills is a concern enough, but sanitary napkins containing plastics lying in our landfills for decades or even centuries is even more concerning. I have interacted with many women and everyone of them was highly concerned about the environment hazards from the sanitary pads they use - all they were looking for was a viable alternative.

Sanfe, IIT Delhi-incubated startup for designing and developing products for improving female health and hygiene, has forayed into the sanitary napkins segment with the launch of reusable sanitary pads, made with composite banana fiber, which can last upto two years (around 120 washes). If the product performs as per the claims, it is a damn good thing - for the women's pockets and for the environment.

Well, reusable sanitary napkins are not exactly a new concept. World over, until the disposable sanitary napkins made an entry, women were using reusable napkins. In India, this was even more prevalent. Sanfe's product, it can hence be said, is in a way going back to our roots, but possibly imbibing learnings from the sanitary pad and tampon innovations since then.

A review of what's happening worldwide in the context of sanitary pads use worldwide throws up surprising trends. The use of reusable cloth pads is gaining significant traction worldwide, surprisingly especially in developed countries. OK, it is perhaps not yet exactly a rage, but it is more prevalent than what one would have thought. Check out some interesting links - here, here , here and here.

So Sanfe appears to be latching on to something that is a fast growing trend. There had been some controversies around the startup last year regarding some of their claims about FDA approvals etc for their product, but let's hope these were more a result of inexperience ( we are talking about guys who are just in their early 20s) and does not reflect on the quality of their product.

While the startup is in its initial stages, their products have already hit the market (Here they are on Amazon). If they are able to do well in India, the global market could beckon too.

IIT Club wishes Sanfe the very best!

Some useful links that provide more details on the growing problem of sanitary napkin waste in India:

Down to Earth

National Geographic


The News Minute

Swachh India @ NDTV


Friends of the Earth UK

Economic Times | Last Updated : 20-Aug-19

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