(171). Start a Low Cost Sanitary Napkins Using Cotton Knitwear Waste
The attainment of puberty in women is signified by menarche, the age of onset of
menstruation. During menstruation, use of some kind of a protection in the form of a pad or
napkin is mandatory. The kind of sanitary protection practiced during menstruation can
determine the hygiene status of a woman, which can affect her reproductive health levels.
Many feminine hygiene products are available in the Indian market, their cost ranging between
Rs. 2.40 - 7.5 / napkin. With this cost profile, mostly the upper middle and high-income group
women are utilizing these products. In addition, the high product cost is a major deterrent in its
utilization by the people of the low-income category. A need was thus felt to develop a low
cost technology for the manufacture of products for sanitary protection, utilizing textile waste
materials with similar properties.
A sanitary napkin comprises of three layers viz, top layer, absorbent layer and barrier sheet. The
absorbent layer is the key component of the napkin and the extent to which this layer is able to
absorb and retain the fluid determines the efficiency of the napkin. This bulk layer of a napkin is
a nonwoven web, made of hydrophilic cellulosic staple fibers like wood pulp, cotton linters,
viscose etc (IS: 5405 - 1981). Most of the wood pulp used for the purpose is imported, and
therefore expensive, increasing the overall cost of a sanitary napkin. Cotton is seen as a major
fiber poised to replace wood pulp especially in the feminine hygiene products where ‘less bulky’
is preferred and ‘thinner is better’. The high cost of cotton is the reason why it has not been
able to replace pulp (Egelsbach, 2002). Hence, the possibility of using cotton of the low cost
knitwear waste is most appropriate to achieve value at less cost. The waste of the knitwear
sector is typically from fully-fashioned garments or the traditional cut’n’sew techniques. The
cost of this cutting and sewing edge waste varies from Rs.2 to 10 / Kg.
In the present study, an attempt has been made to develop low cost sanitary napkins by
utilizing cotton fiber from knitwear waste. The process has been optimized and evaluation of
the final product was done with respect to performance, comfort and hygiene parameters. The
quality of the developed product was compared using specified parameters with four major
brands of sanitary napkins in the Indian markets.
Napkins are manufactured in high cost machines only. The cost of the machine is about 75 lacs to 2.5 crores. These machines are generally run by multinational companies only. By seeing the napkins whiteness, people who are interested to make these napkins feel that the material used for napkin manufacture is cotton. They used viscose cloth to wrap the cotton. The cotton has a tendency to absorb the liquid, but is releases under slightest pressure or sqeeze,Due to this simple reason acceptability and salability became tougher which led to collapse of these industries. But on automated plant big companies are not using cotton instead they are using wood pulp. Wood pulp and non woven fabrics are generally procured in roll forms that can be processed on high cost machines only. The nature of the wood pulp is that it will absorb and retain the liquid even under pressure .This would give a dry feel to the user. Thus users are satisfied. Now by this just Rs.75,000 worth new invention mini sanitary napkin unit that runs on simple technology can be process the wood pulp and the non woven fabric , and even a rural women can manufacture superior saleable napkins at a fraction of cost compared to big company manufacturing units.
The average income of women became Rs. 2000-3500/month. Generally in rural areas cloth is being used during the menstrual periods. Due to this unhygienic method used by rural women lead to fungal infection and may sometime worsen to uterus cancer in women. Even adolescent girls got affected by this unhygienic practice. The reason is that even that they know about the sanitary napkin the cost of the napkins manufactured by multinationals was not affordable. In this situation with this mini sanitary napkin unit, napkins can be manufactured at low costs (50%less) without compromising the quality of the napkin. Thus napkins manufactured on this low cost unit are easily saleable in rural areas. These will a boon for women self help groups and women entrepreneurs in rural and urban areas also. Since this is a women area rural women can set up this low cost unit at their areas by telling in way
The Pad That Does Not Whisper
A school dropout invents a sanitary napkin machine that is changing the lives of thousands of women across India. PC VINOJ KUMAR reports
SISTERS VIJAYA and Latha in the Coimbatore city of Tamil Nadu were earning paltry salaries in private jobs. Last November, they pooled in Rs 85,000 and bought a local inventor’s machine that manufactures sanitary napkins.
“We read of it in a Tamil magazine and decided to plunge into the business,” says Latha. Today, they earn Rs 5,000 a month selling the napkins that have become a hit with women in the city and the countryside. Selling under the brand name ‘Touch Free’, the sisters produce 8,000 packets a month. Each pack contains eight sanitary napkins. Women in their area purchase directly from them, while salesgirls sell the napkins at homes, offices and colleges.
Each machine makes 120 napkins an hour. The invention caters to 2.5 lakh women in India
Not far from their home, retired school teacher Rajeswari has set up her own unit, too. “These napkins are thicker than those sold in the shops,” she says. “They are specially designed for rural women who work in the fields, as one pad can last a whole day.”
This low-cost sanitary napkin manufacturing machine is the invention of 47- year-old A Muruganantham, a Class 10 dropout who is now making waves across India. With its capacity to produce 120 napkins per hour, such machines are now catering to at least 2.5 lakh women and girls. Already, some 100 machines have been installed across India, 29 of them in Haryana alone. Entrepreneurs in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand, too, have set up units after buying the machines from Muruganantham.
A school of his own Murugantham’s machine is taking sanitary pads to newer consumers
Care free The machine has improved sanitation and is spurring rural women into entrepreneurship
In Uttarakhand, a government company, the Uttarakhand Parvatiya Aajeevika Sanvardhan, has begun a project using this machine at a village in the Tehri district. Many women and girls there have started using sanitary napkins for the first time. “It has helped upgrade the hygiene of the rural women,” says Vinita Negi, an executive with the venture. As a micro-enterprise, it has also provided employment to eight women. Across Uttarakhand, some 12 machines have been installed.
Despite his invention’s huge success, Muruganantham refuses to sell the patent for his machine and turned down a blank cheque from a private company. He says he wants to use his invention for promoting hygiene among rural and urban poor women. In rural India, Muruganantham claims, most women use a cloth contraption as a sanitary pad, which is unhygienic and a known cause for bringing on diseases such as cervical cancer.
Muruganantham now lectures at business schools. He has won an award from IIT Madras
In 2006, IIT (Madras) awarded the first prize to Muruganantham in a contest for innovating for betterment of society. He often lectures at business schools. Last year, he spoke at a meeting of innovators from across the country held at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.
Muruganantham’s family struggled to make ends meet after his father passed away. For some years he worked in a welding shop as a helper. Later, he set up a small steel fabrication workshop in Coimbatore. He invented the sanitary napkin machine after nearly four years of painstaking research. It took him almost two years to realise that the padding used in sanitary napkins was made of pine wood pulp and not ordinary cotton.
“My family thought I had gone mad when I began my experiments,” he says. Initially, he distributed the napkins for free, and collected them after use to see if they worked.
“My mother left me. My sisters started avoiding me.” But now, everyone is proud of Muruganantham’s success.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
100% Cotton knitwear from the Cutting and Sewing edge waste, Polypropylene Spunbonded
sheet, Polyethylene sheet of 10 GSM and 25 GSM, Silicon release paper. Chemicals such as
Rewetting agent Sandopan OTI liquid, detergent, Caustic soda, chemicals for solubility tests of
fibers, Silicon oil, and Pressure sensitive adhesive were used.
STEP I: EVALUATION OF THE BRANDED SANITARY NAPKINS AVAILABLE IN THE
16 varieties of sanitary napkins of 4 major brands i.e., Stayfree, Whisper, Kotex and Shapers
were evaluated in terms of physical and microbiological parameters. The cost profile of each
brand and special features advertised on their package cover were also compared. The Physical
Parameters tested were:
1. Qualitative Fibre Analysis
The fibre analysis of the selected sanitary napkin was done layer wise, using the standard
AATCC test methods. Preliminary identification was done using a Light Microscope; the
longitudinal view of the fibres was viewed under the microscope. Chemical analysis of each
layer was done to confirm the nature of fibers. Solubility test was done to identify the
cellulosic fibers and type of synthetic fibers. To identify the type of Polyolefin fiber, viz.
Polypropylene and Polyethylene, the Melting Point process was done using high boiling
point Silicon oil.
2. Determination of pH
The pH of sanitary napkins was tested according to IS: 1390 – 1960, using the aqueous
extracts of the samples by the cold method. The IS: 5405-1980, specification for sanitary
napkins specifies the above test method for testing pH of a sanitary napkin.
3. Determination of Absorbency and ability to withstand Pressure after Absorption
This test was conducted as per the IS: 5405-1980. The time taken for the fluid to get
completely absorbed by the napkin and the area of the spread of the fluid was noted. The
sides and back of the napkin were observed for any fluid leaking through after placing a one
Kg weight on it.
4. Flexibility of the Sanitary Napkins
Flexibility of the sanitary napkins was tested by the Modified Circular Bend Procedure (US
4950264- Patent P&G). It is a test modeled after the circular bend procedure ASTM: D4032
2001. The test apparatus used was an Instron inverted compression load cell, and the
maximum force reading is the peak bending stiffness for that specimen.
5. Water Retention
The measurement of water retention was done by the Centrifuge method, using the
Standard test method, ASTM: D 2402-2001. Each prepared specimen was immersed in
distilled water at room temperature for 5 minutes to completely wet it out. For ultra thin
napkins the immersion time was for 2.5 minutes. The centrifuged specimen was weighed,
dried and reweighed. Water retention was calculated and reported as a percentage of the
The disposability of the napkins was tested as per IS: 5405-1980. The napkin with the top
and back covering removed was immersed in 15 liters of water and time taken to disperse
was noted. The Microbiological testing of sanitary napkins was done to indicate the level of
microorganisms and common skin and uterine pathogens in the product.
a) Bacterial and Fungal Bio-burden
The testing was carried out by the Aerobic Plate Count method and the Yeast and Mould
Count method for determining the bacterial and fungal Bioburden respectively using the
standard method BAM, 2001. All Colony Forming Units (CFU) were counted including
b) Presence of Staphylococcus aureus
Sanitary napkins were also tested for the presence of Staphylococcus aureus using the
standard test method IS: 5887 (part II) – 2005. The saline extracts of the samples were
inoculated on Baird parker medium and the Baird parker agar plates were incubated for
30 hours at 37ûC. From the incubated plates the suspected colonies of the organism
were looked out for.
The quality of the branded sanitary napkins was ascertained on the basis of physical and
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A Muruganantham was one of the 18 entrepreneurs shortlisted from the Made In India (MII) Search. The MII Search was a pan
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