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Show Notes:

Guest Chirag Virani, co-founder of India-based Sparkle Eco Innovations, returns for part two of his discussion with Jack Hughes about period care products in India. In this episode, Jack and Chirag consider the challenges manufacturers may face in this promising market. Key among them are menstrual inequity and the stigma of discussing menstruation. Also discussed are efforts to increase sustainability as well as gender bias in an industry focused on women’s health.

Sustainability and other end-of-life issues for period care products

What happens to absorbent hygiene products is a conversation for many in India’s period care market. The plastics that make products and their production affordable can be a hindrance to certain types of end-of-life scenarios. In fact, plastics can take 500-600 years to break down, whereas cellulose composts much more quickly. This is an additional benefit for those who see more natural products as being better for personal health.
In India, another dimension of end-of-life discussions relates to discretion and stigma. How can those who menstruate discreetly dispose of their products? Sparkle Eco Innovations is testing a mechanism to collect and compost soiled articles. This pilot program, based in the region around Sparkle’s factory, allows consumers to return used pads in provided packaging. The returned articles are then composted by a participating waste disposal company.

Stigmas surrounding the discussion of menstruation

One unfortunate truth is that many of those who menstruate do not understand their options. Governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are working to spread information where it is needed. But signs of the societal stigma against discussing it is seen again and again—and in various ways. During presentations, men may be asked to leave the room. Even then, attendees may still be too uncomfortable to discuss the topic and ask questions. Questions are often only asked in private, leading some NGOs to set up small rooms for one-on-one question sessions. Situations like these are more common in rural areas, but they are a factor even in cities.

Menstrual inequity and lack of access to products

A disheartening 23% of youths who menstruate stop going to school because they have no access to period care products. This can have a very real impact on their future prospects. However, studies have also shown that when they are given access to products, 90% remain in school. It is statistics like these that have led many in the industry to make period care articles more available. Some companies donate them on a regular basis. Others offer discounted rates to NGOs working to expand access.

Outline of the Episode

  • [1:39] Safe and discreet disposal of period products in India
  • [6:37] Developing plans to reduce the use of fossil resources and improve end-of-life scenarios
  • [10:13] Stories capturing the challenges of the stigma against menstruation
  • [13:39] The impact of gender bias on moving the period care industry forward
  • [19:35] Other manifestations of stigma
  • [23:27] Indian consumers and the internet
  • [27:36] Addressing menstrual inequity
  • [32:02] Predictions for the future of menstrual care and absorbent hygiene


Connect with Chirag Virani via LinkedIn.

Follow Sparkle on:
  To hear more about menstrual health and period care products, listen to these episodes:
  Delve deeper into sustainability issues for absorbent hygiene industry:

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Host: Jack Hughes

Music by Jonathan Boyle

Produced and edited by: Jack Hughes with help from Paul Andrews, Michele Tonkovitz, Emory Churness, Nikki Ackerman, and Green Onion Creative.

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