With the State government taking the initiative to provide sanitary napkins free of cost to adolescent girls, campaigners of the menstrual hygiene movement can now shift focus to safe disposal of napkins.

In an example of the industry and academia joint initiative for a social cause, BHEL and the Bharathidasan University launched a three-year plan of providing sanitary napkin incinerators to 150 schools and colleges in central Tamil Nadu, primarily Tiruchi, on Wednesday. The BHEL under its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative will fund the project estimated at Rs. 55 lakh.

The CSR initiative by BHEL was aimed at prioritising women’s health, said A.V. Krishnan, executive director.

The first batch of incinerators would be installed in 25 schools and colleges, mostly government institutions in rural areas and schools in the vicinity of BHEL, said K. Meena, Vice-Chancellor, Bharathidasan University. Seventy-five incinerators in the second year and 50 in the third year would be installed. Besides installing the machines, BHEL would ensure the dispensers were operational and also educate the faculty and students on their maintenance, said K. Murali, deputy general manager, BHEL. An instruction manual has been given to each beneficiary institution.

The electric incinerators provide an environment-friendly alternative for disposal as they convert each sanitary napkin into one milligram of sterile ash, said Ketan Shah, supplier of the incinerators.

The conversion takes less than a minute for each napkin and the receptacle can hold up to 25 napkins at a time. The machine uses half a unit of power an hour.

There are cases where sanitary napkin incinerators donated by various organisations to educational institutions in the past have become defunct. But these modern, electric ones are expected to last 10 years. The success of the initiative hinges on how well students grasp the importance of safe disposal of sanitary products.

How to use and dispose

Apart from educating students on disposal, the NSS and Women Involved in Sanitation and Hygiene (WISH) programme of the Bharathidasan University would educate students on the health benefits and usage of sanitary napkins, said Ganesan, NSS coordinator. Since the inception, WISH has conducted 25 awareness programmes reaching 8,000 students, said Lakshmi Prabha, organising secretary.

These machines would bring relief to sanitary workers in institutions where these products are collected and burnt, said Ganapathy, coordinator, WISH.