Ashudhdhinashak: An eco-friendly solution to dispose women sanitary napkins

A low cost sanitary napkin incinerator, the Ashudhdhinashak, will help numerous women in discarding sanitary napkins in an environment-friendly way. This is how it came into existence.

Why would a man be even remotely concerned about what happens to soiled sanitary napkins? And why would he use his innovative mind to resolve the vexed issue of disposing sanitary napkins in a clean and environmentally safe manner? Especially considering the fact that he himself will hardly benefit from the findings in any direct way!

It all began by chance

53-year-old Shyam has a B.Sc. in Chemistry and a B.Sc. Tech degree in Textile Chemistry. He began working as a quality control head, first with textile mills and later with dyestuff manufacturing units.

Shyam’s wife, Swati, a science educator, used to address the issue of menstrual hygiene by creating enterprises consisting of tribal women who manufactured low cost, yet high quality sanitary napkins. Though her work helped women maintain menstrual hygiene and also earn in the process, the issue of safe disposal of sanitary napkins had to be resolved. Shyam could see the predicament that Swati was going through. And it was his innovative thinking that came to her rescue. Shyam realized that there was a need to develop a low-cost incinerator for disposal of sanitary napkins, especially for rural areas where there is no system of garbage collection like in cities. If the disposal aspect was taken care of, it would become easier to convince women to use sanitary napkins.

Design Considerations

As the first step, Shyam created a vision for the incinerator. It had to be low cost and required work on three major aspects – technical, commercial, and aesthetics.

Understanding that the technical aspects had to be given the maximum weightage, Shyam focused on the combustion action of the incinerator. He also worked on the accumulation chamber that would hold 5 to 20 soiled sanitary napkins. The protection aspects, like reducing attacks by rodents and ants, were also looked into.

Then came the question of materials – wood was out of question; steel is too expensive, is not rust proof and has a high chance of being stolen. After toying with multiple ideas, Shyam decided to design the incinerator with terracotta and concrete.

How does it Work?

Shyam created a sub compartment in the accumulation chamber. This accumulation chamber rests on a mesh. The mesh is big enough to allow the ash to fall down, but small enough to restrict rodents from entering. The sub compartment primarily aids the ignition process. The hole allows oxygen to enter the chamber, thereby sustaining the burning process.

Step 1: A woman opens the top lid and throws soiled sanitary napkins into the accumulation chamber. She does not have to touch or look inside the chamber.
Step 2: She uses either dry grass or paper to ignite.
Step 3: The soiled sanitary napkins burn out. Ash falls at the bottom.
Step 4: There is a need to clear the ash. This ash can be used as a fertilizer since the burnt material is wood pulp.

The base of the incinerator is filled with water to provide stability and to keep the ants and rodents at bay. Shyam has also put a lot of thought into the aesthetics of the incinerator, taking special care to make it appear very basic and uninteresting, in an attempt to ensure that it does not attract attention.

The best part is that the incinerator requires no electricity or fuel to keep it operational. Easy to make, easy to assemble and easy to install, Ashudhdhinashak is the innovation that may redefine lives in rural areas.

At the cost of Rs. 2,000 per incinerator, Shyam has been able to install more than 2,000 such machines at universities, hostels, schools that come under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and in villages near water points.

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