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Eco-Friendly Sanitary Towels — Global Issues

Stephany Musombi and engineers getting ready the banana stems for processing at KIRDI. Credit: Wilson Odhiambo/IPS
  • by Wilson Odhiambo (nairobi)
  • Inter Press Service

Kisato is a lecturer on the Kenyatta University (KU), Fashion Design and Marketing, at the moment engaged on a venture to develop inexpensive and eco-friendly sanitary towels whereas additionally discovering an answer for sustainable packaging supplies.

Kisato’s enterprise began out to assist communities get a supply of employment by means of the commercialization of banana stems – merchandise that had been thought of ineffective by farmers and would often be left to rot away on farms.

After the Kenyan authorities enforced a ban on using plastic luggage in 2018, there was a necessity to seek out instant alternate options.

Plastic luggage had been a necessity for grocers and fast-food distributors, an merchandise that made it simple for purchasers to hold their items house. Despite their benefit, nevertheless, their damaging influence on the setting might now not be ignored.

‘’I began taking a look at this venture from an entrepreneurship perspective on how I might commercialize banana stem fibers. The authorities had simply banned single-use plastic luggage, and market distributors wanted alternate options to serve their prospects,’’ Kisato advised IPS.

‘’Poorly disposed sanitary towels additionally shaped a part of the air pollution downside since they had been composed of plastic,’’ she added.

According to Kisato, nevertheless, her must empower girls and younger ladies by means of inexpensive sanitary towels was one thing that she all the time had in thoughts after noticing the struggles that school-going ladies went by means of.

‘’While strolling alongside the hallways at some point, a scholar on campus stopped me and requested if I might assist her with a packet of sanitary pads. This incident shocked me as for a very long time, I had assumed ‘period poverty’ was solely skilled amongst highschool youngsters,’’ Kisato mentioned.

Kisato and her analysis staff interviewed 400 highschool ladies from Gatundi, Kibera, and Kawangware, the place they discovered that greater than 50 p.c of the women in these low-income areas might hardly afford sanitary pads even when at house.

This didn’t sit properly with the don as she felt one thing wanted to be executed about it.

It was whereas researching alternate options to plastic luggage that she realized that she might remedy two issues on the identical time.

Kisato, subsequently, utilized for the National Research Fund (NRF) in 2018 with the purpose of growing eco-friendly plastic luggage and sanitary towels. Her want got here by means of when NRF granted Kenyatta University Ksh.9 million (about US $ 61,623) in 2020, along with her taking the lead because the principal investigator within the venture.

Her staff is made up of students from totally different departments and establishments and likewise contains Ph.D. and grasp’s college students, with every one in every of them enjoying a serious function in seeing the venture by means of.

‘’I lead a staff of engineers from the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), whose job is to reverse engineer machines that may extract fiber from banana stems and use them to create eco-friendly packaging and sanitary towels,’’ she defined. “I also have researchers from Moi University whose work was to turn the extracted fiber into soft materials for use.”

Kisato’s purpose was to provide high quality sanitary towels that would compete with what was already available in the market whereas nonetheless being eco-friendly, a incontrovertible fact that led her to hunt the experience of Edwin Madivoli, a chemistry lecturer on the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

According to Kisato, the towels in the marketplace have a part in them known as hydrogel, which allows them to retain fluids for longer, and had been additionally lined with plastic sheets to stop any leakage. Our intention is to copy the identical however use bioplastic supplies, which may degrade versus the conventional plastic that’s getting used.

From her analysis, Kisato additionally found that Africans, on common, wore sanitary towels for longer as in comparison with girls and ladies from developed nations and had been thus liable to getting bacterial infections. This was on account of restricted entry and affordability in Africa.

‘’The advisable interval for one to have on a sanitary pad is about three hours, which signifies that it needs to be modified a minimum of thrice a day to keep away from any threat of infections. This is, nevertheless, not the case for a lot of ladies in Africa on account of poverty,’’ Kisato defined to IPS.

‘’We thought including anti-microbial properties to our product would subsequently make it pretty much as good and even higher than what was available in the market,’’ mentioned Kisato.

The analysis staff additionally discovered that there have been plenty of myths surrounding menstrual stream amongst younger ladies, a incontrovertible fact that led to plenty of stigmatization, which made it tough for them to grasp find out how to use sanitary towels correctly.

Some of the notable concepts that ladies advised one another regarding menstrual stream included:

  1. It is a curse from God
  2. Girls who had intervals had been thought of soiled and impure
  3. Their faces would grow to be pale from shedding blood

‘’These are beliefs that must be executed away with by encouraging mother and father and the federal government to discuss month-to-month intervals with younger ladies overtly,’’ Kisato mentioned.

For the second part of the venture, Madivoli’s chemistry experience got here in helpful, and the Research Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) was completely happy so as to add an extra Ksh.9 million (about USD 59,000) for Kisato to proceed what she had began.

‘’My function is to make sure our sanitary pads are of the identical high quality as what’s available in the market whereas on the identical time sustaining an eco-friendly nature, which is the principle agenda of this entire venture,’’ Madivoli advised IPS.

‘’I’m tasked with the event of hydrogels, manufacturing of bioplastics, and discovering a technique to incorporate anti-microbial properties into our merchandise to guard the customers from doable infections,’’ he mentioned.

JKUAT obtained funding of Ksh.800,000 (about US $ 5477) from the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA) to additional assist Madivoli with this analysis.

“As they are left to dry up on the farms, banana stems are known to produce large amounts of methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to the climate change problems that we are trying to tackle, added Madivoli. ‘”Having an alternate use for the stems subsequently limits the greenhouse impact within the ambiance.’’

Madivoli mentioned that the majority banana farmers often have no idea what to do with the stems as soon as they’ve executed their harvest, and this venture provides them a technique to earn some additional revenue as they count on to purchase the stems from them at Ksh.35 per stem.

“This project will not only be environmentally friendly but will also create jobs for the people who go to cut the stems from the farms while also finding use for the biomass that the farmers thought was useless,’’ he concluded.

Once it is up and running, they expect to source banana stems from counties such as Kisii, Muranga, Embu, Meru, and parts of western Kenya.

Stephany Musombi is one of Kisato’s students specializing in textiles whose task in the project is to come up with quality packaging materials.

‘’Apart from the banana fiber, I am also experimenting with other biomass such as pineapple and seaweed,’’ Musombi told IPS. If I can find a way to make this work, the project will open up a market for seaweed and pineapple biomass.

Kisato’s project could not have picked a better time there is an international joint push for green solutions to help mitigate climate change. On September 4, 2023, Kenya also played host to the climate summit that attracted leaders from across Africa.

Kenya’s president, William Ruto, drove himself in a tiny electric car to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), where he challenged the African leaders and innovators to find sustainable solutions to their daily activities that can help them reduce the carbon print in the continent and globally.

‘’Africa can power all energy needs with renewable resources. The continent has enough potential to be entirely self-sufficient using wind, solar, geothermal, sustainable biomass, and hydropower energy. Africa can be a green industrial hub that helps other regions achieve their net zero strategies by 2050,’’ Ruto said at the summit.

Kisato expects her product to hit the market later this year, where she plans to make it more affordable for all. Her intention is to team up with startups or established companies that deal with toiletries.

‘’The cheapest sanitary packet in the market costs Ksh.140. We expect ours to go as low as Ksh.100, Kisato,’’ concluded.

Kenyatta University’s Vice Chancellor, Paul Wainaina, lauded the project, stating that it will enable the country to meet its industrial needs while conserving the environment.

IPS UN Bureau Report

Follow IPS News UN Bureau on Instagram

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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