TN Student Duo Make ‘Herbal’ Sanitary Napkins From Edible Kenaf Plant, Whose Fiber Is Thrown Away

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In Andhra Pradesh, kenaf or ‘Gongura’ leaves find a steady use in the local cuisine. The plant is also well-known for its other subsidiary uses in ropes, twines and some coarse fabrics, similar to jute in texture. But student duo Niveda and Gowtham  from Tamil Nadu has upgraded the indigenous kenaf fibre to a whole new level, by manufacturing a super-absorbent, biodegradable sanitary napkin from the edible plant. Both of them are pursuing their Masters in Apparel Technology at Kumaraguru College of Technology in Coimbatore.

The product has earned accolades at a number of national scientific conventions and is being locally marketed now under the name ‘Bliss’.

What makes kenaf fibre ‘Bliss’ pads a true bliss for users

Commercial sanitary napkins which contain Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP) and other harmful chemicals are raising health concerns among many women who suffer from side-effects like rashes, itching or even hormonal disturbances. Also, the ultra-thin, heavily scented pads which we find on our supermarket shelves contain around 80% plastic which makes them non-biodegradable. A single commercial pad takes around 500-800 years to decompose completely. Many organisations are coming up with alternatives like cloth pads and menstrual cups, but those also find a number of drawbacks.

This is the first time an eco-friendly menstrual product has been made which is nearly similar to the commercial pads most women are accustomed to using. As per feedback from the regular customers of ‘Bliss’, the kenaf fibre pad has truly been a bliss in their lives.

From a delicacy to a necessity

So how did the two students come up with such an innovative idea? Talking to Efforts For Good, Niveda shares, “An NGO from Andhra Pradesh approached our college for finding a viable solution to use discarded fibres of kenaf, a crop which is produced in bulk in their state. We started working to create wearable fabrics, but our research revealed that the kenaf fibre has amazing absorbance and antimicrobial properties. That’s when the idea of making sanitary pads out of it came up.”

Kenaf is produced as a crop in over twelve states in India, and feature heavily on the regional food plates. The crop’s ability to reduce greenhouse gases as well as its versatility as a fibre is much lesser known. It is quite popular in Tamil Nadu as well, where it is termed as ‘pulicha keerai’ and used for making chutneys and pickles. So, sourcing the raw materials was a cakewalk for Niveda and Gowtham. The hardest challenge was perfecting the final product – complete with adhesive and wings, similar to any commercial pad.

Niveda and Gowtham subjected the kenaf fibre to a series of laboratory tests, to check its viability as a sanitary napkin filler. They found that 1 gm of kenaf fibre can absorb up to 22.78 ml of thick synthetic blood. The organic pad has a very soft top layer and is coated on the underside with bioplastic made from cornstarch, which prevents leakage. The makers have not added any artificial chemicals or fragrances to the pad as kenaf itself has quite a pleasant natural odour. One pad can last up to eight hours and causes no itching or rashes. The product has already received a patent.

Soon to be marketed online

Curated in 2017, the product was commercially marketed from September 2018. “As of now, we are selling our products locally in and around Coimbatore. We have set up some stalls in the city and also take part in exhibitions,” Niveda informs.

Many housewives are volunteering to be sales agents for ‘Bliss’ pads and popularising the product through word of mouth. The good news is that ‘Bliss’ pads will be marketed soon on a pan-India basis through their upcoming website as well as e-commerce platforms.
The team also frequents local colleges to spread awareness about sustainable menstruation.

As a student start-up, Niveda and Gowtham’s ‘Bliss’ has won a number of awards and recognitions, including three awards at the 2017 India Innovation Initiative. The team of two hopes they help more women realise the benefits of opting for sustainable menstruation.

Also Read: She Faced Bad Experience With Sanitary Napkins Now Makes Reusable & Cost-Effective Cloth Pads

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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