Local Goa News

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Used sanitary napkins piling up; no rules for disposal

PANAJI: Goa has not yet found a way to handle sanitary napkins and diapers, which have been piling up over the years, waiting for disposal with Panaji itself having two tonnes of them in its store.
There are no clear guidelines by which one can dispose of medical waste that is generated at home. The Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) says the new rules have not prescribed proper procedure for disposal of used sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, used condoms or any material contaminated with body fluid or blood which turns hazardous if handled carelessly.

Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2016, has no clear guidelines on disposal of sanitary waste. This waste can be classified somewhere between domestic and biomedical waste and the responsibility of discarding it gets tossed to the civic authorities who store it separately in the dump yard, having no other means to handle it. But the state has no specialised treatment for this kind of waste. It has been facing difficulty in disposing soiled sanitary napkins and diapers in the absence of upgraded waste disposal facilities. The incinerator installed at the Goa Medical College and hospital (GMC) is outdated and incompetent to treat sanitary waste. However, in the last three years, the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) and other waste collectors in the state have collected and stored around 12-14 tonnes of sanitary waste and now most of the local bodies have stopped collecting such waste in the absence of disposal facilities.
By definition, “waste containing blood or body fluids” should be regarded as biomedical waste under the Bio Medical Waste Rules, 2016, and should be processed and treated separately. Sanitary waste generated at home or in an organisation is, however, considered municipal waste under the new rule. A senior GSPCB official said, “Since sanitary waste (sanitary pads, baby and adult diapers) is a part of either biomedical waste or municipal solid waste depending upon the source of generation, there are no clear guidelines for handling and disposal under the newly notified rules,” he added.
Admitting that there are no proper facilities to treat this waste separately, an official from the GSPCB said that currently CCP and all other local bodies have no option but to store it. “We have instructed to collect and store the waste till the facility at GMC for scientific disposal gets upgraded because the incinerators to burn or dispose of such waste need to be upgraded. Also, other alternative option of sanitary landfill could not be taken up due to land scarcity,” he said.
Presently, GMC treats hospital-generated biomedical waste at its facility, which is now overloaded and requires immediate upgradation. The sanitary waste has both, biodegradable and non-biodegradable material and hence, needs to be burnt at above 1,000 degree Celsius temperature and if incinerated at low temperature, it releases harmful gases.
There is no data available with the GSPCB on generation of domestic sanitary waste. However, it has been estimated that every infant uses 4-6 diapers a day and an aged person wears 3-4 diapers a day while for every woman, over 2,000 sanitary pads are required up to the age of 35-40 years which means two pads each day during their menstruation cycle.
Speaking to this daily, an authorised waste collector Clinton Vaz said there is no provision or guidelines from the government for the disposal of home-generated sanitary waste. “Such waste is hazardous and if thrown with other solid waste, it spreads infections more rapidly,” he said adding that the only solution is that people should minimise the use of such products and seek for alternatives to diapers and sanitary pads such as cloth diapers, washable diapers, menstrual cups and washable cloth pads.”
The Biomedical Waste Rules, 2016, say that manufacturers or brand owners of sanitary products have to provide pouches or wrapping material along with their product for its safe storage. However, in the last meeting of expert committee for biomedical waste held in January this year, it has asked the major manufacturers in sanitary line products to set up collection centres where citizens can deposit such waste and also devise a mechanism of safe disposal. However, the manufacturers are shying away from their responsibility.
The manufacturers of sanitary napkins use a chemical called dioxin to bleach the cotton. Unless the pads are specifically labelled as non-bleached, one can assume it has undergone this process. Although the levels of dioxin in sanitary napkins are quite low, they are still dangerous as dioxin accumulates in the fat stores of the body and can add up to the residual levels over time.

TOI Network Goa News

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