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Disposal of Sanitary Waste – Beginning with Bins

by Admin
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Segregation of garbage – dry and wet  – is still not being practiced in many residential, commercial or even industrial complexes in India, even though the cost involved in this case is insignificant. The consciousness of global warming and its relation to disposal of garbage took almost a decade for India to absorb.

Garbage or waste, in general, decomposes within a time frame causing odour and generation of bacteria in the process. While grappling with the problems of assortment of waste, one component which is overlooked and which is of serious concern is the sanitary waste. An unscientific way of approaching this segment can have alarming consequences.

Vinay Ruparel, Director, Jade Consumer Products I Pvt. Ltd, which has a tie-up with Technical Concepts, says, “Sanitary waste is not considered as bio waste unlike in other countries. It is disposed off along with municipal waste. But when we approached some of the housekeeping companies to adopt sanitary disposal units, they reacted by saying ‘we have not received any complaints from our clients so far where disposal of sanitary waste in dustbins is concerned’. The point is why wait until someone complaints? Is this the right way to dispose off sanitary waste? If this is the scene even in some of the big corporate houses, there are hospitals that leave sanitary waste in the bin to be collected by the municipal waste van. Some of the hospitals claim that it is cleared within half an hour. Well, even if it is getting cleared, what about the bin? Is it being disinfected? Are the workers clearing or washing the bins?

“Hence abroad – all over Europe, USA, the UK and Australia, a provision for sanitary waste disposal is mandatory, in any place that employs women; be it in offices, malls, restaurants or hotels. Therefore, there are more players of feminine hygiene in the international market.”

In India, the concept is relatively new. The market for feminine care increased in 2001-2006; growing at an average annual rate of 9.8%. There are two companies providing feminine hygiene products. And disposal provisions are yet to become mandatory. “It is yet to make an impact on the lawmakers. Treatment of garbage itself is just catching up, hence treatment of sanitary waste is considered very trivial,” says Prashant Sule, CEO, PCI Environmental Services Pvt. Ltd. (PCIES). PCIES is a joint venture company of PCI India and OCS Facility Management, UK, of which Cannon Hygiene is the feminine hygiene wing. PCIES is the sole distributor of Cannon Hygiene sanitary disposers in India.

Apart from disposing it in the general waste, another crude way of disposing sanitary waste is to flush it in the toilet! This practice gives rise to problems like choking of drains leading to frequent and recurring cost of plumbing repairs. The next alternative to flushing is to leave it in bins which stink due to contamination.

Dr J.P.S. Bakshi, Managing Director, Washroom Hygiene Concepts (P) Ltd states that FM companies recommend sanitary disposal systems and service in order to cut plumbing problems.

“The toilet and sewerage system is designed to deal with urine, faeces and toilet tissues. If you flush other items down the toilet it can easily lead to blockages and can cause flooding. But that is not the only problem that may occur. When the waste eventually gets to the sewage treatment plant it can block the plants’ filter screens. If there is heavy rainfall, this waste, known as Sanitary Related Debris (SRD) may escape from overflowing pipes and head directly to the river and sea.

“The scale of the problem is astounding. An estimated two billion sanitary protection items are flushed down toilets each year. SRD can end up on beaches and riverbanks and can pose a health risk to humans and wildlife alike. Marine wildlife can also suffer greatly. They often mistake plastic materials for food. The visual impact of this litter on the environment is also significant.

“Disposable pads aren’t beneficial economically or environmentally. They take approximately 500 years before they begin to partially biodegrade. The plastic used in these take even longer.

“The next step is to discreetly deliver the receptacles containing used feminine hygiene products to an incinerator or macerator for final disposal. An incinerator burns the dressing to ash, whilst a macerator shreds the feminine hygiene product and flushes it into the drainage system. When working properly, both methods are very effective.

“Although the installation costs for both incinerators and macerators are relatively high, they are nothing compared to the harmful effects on the environment caused by indiscreet methods of disposal.”

Charu Thapar, Managing Director-Clent Solutions (Asset Services), Asia-Pacific, Cushman and Wakefield, says, “In offices where feminine hygiene units are not provided for, one often notices small sanitary disposal bags. While in India we have not graduated to providing more feminine hygiene services. In certain countries, there are dispensing machines in ladies washrooms which dispense out feminine healthcare or sanitary products.

“Traditionally in India, washrooms had been one of the most neglected parts of commercial properties. Whether for men or for women, washrooms were treated as secondary to the overall maintenance and upkeep. However, that trend has long been changed and most developers and occupants are now conscious of providing state-of-the-art concepts and designs for washrooms which form an integral part of the overall design and layout. In the same respect, ladies washrooms have garnered attention from developers and occupants alike who are looking at providing the most effective and hygienic concepts in line with international standards. An FM company would provide coordination services to facilitate feminine hygiene care services for corporate offices, retail spaces and common areas in buildings.”

However, a question remains, whether users are feminine-hygiene savvy? Are these disposal units being operated correctly?

“The feminine hygiene care units, called canister, like the Cannon Hygiene products are lined with germicide namely ‘Activap’ and placed in the ladies washrooms / cubicles with instruction sticker for usage. The language is made lucid for most people in India to understand. The instructions are in English and Hindi.

“Each canister is emptied out at a frequency of approximately 30 days or earlier depending on usage/volume. A healthy routine of cleaning is maintained by the facilities managers ensuring that at no point of time these canisters are either filled to their capacity or emitting any kind of odour, left untidy or in other unacceptable conditions. Most offices have attendants patrolling the washrooms at a regular frequency to ensure cleanliness,” says Charu Thapar.

Amanda Martin, Managing Director of Technical Concepts Hygiene Pty South Africa, says, “Used in conjunction with the bin, a good product like Technical Concepts’ SaniSense controls germs and odours. Sani Sense crystals are fresh smelling and carry a biocide around the interior of the bin to keep it clean and fresh between services.

“Responsible management of hygiene and risk can minimise any negative impact that the washroom can have on people. Further, containing and disposing of feminine hygiene waste in an environmentally responsible way is a critical and sensitive issue requiring attention in every organisation. You should ensure that you fully conform to your environmental responsibility for the health and safety of female washroom users.”

Adds Dr Bakshi, “The government has also started to increase pressure on companies to ensure that their contractors use eco-friendly hygiene waste disposal systems rather than landfills. Green products are being requested by companies, facilities managers, contract cleaners and hygiene service providers. The demand is also creeping onto the tenders too.

“Independent washroom hygiene service companies are cashing in on this. For many, the eco-friendly route is proving to be a good source of competitive advantage.”

However, there are several factors listed below that directly work against the use of sanitary disposers in washrooms.

Awareness

Vinay Ruparel: “Products like sanitary disposers hit the market about a year ago and yet the level of awareness is negligible. Even those who are aware are not receptive. Very few are open to this concept of having sanitary dispensers in cubicles. Further those who have adopted feminine hygiene do not want to put canisters in all the cubicles. They would place it in one out of four cubicles and then women would have to queue up outside this cubicle because they want to use the dispenser.

“We conducted a pilot survey on feminine hygiene in India and found that most of the housekeeping and FM companies do not have much knowledge about feminine hygiene. We are facing hurdles in making them aware about feminine hygiene and why this service is needed.”

Charu Thapar: “Another factor that housekeeping companies argue about is that clients consider this to be an add-on service. While upkeep and maintenance of washrooms can be very challenging for an on-the-job-worker, state-of-the-art equipment like feminine hygiene canisters make the environment safe and healthy.”

 

Mindset

Prashant Sule: “The Indian community, in general, considers discussion on this subject a taboo. Much also depends on the person we are holding the discussion with, if it’s a woman you still get heard but if it’s a man it’s next to impossible. The background of the person is another important factor. So for instance, if you are dealing with a woman from the administration department, who is set on cost cutting, then you would never get heard. On the other hand a man from a BPO, catering to international clients would be more than willing to listen. We achieve up to 75% success in these cases. Multinationals are aware of this kind of service and agree that this service must exist. They care.

“The FM and housekeeping facilities not only face the problem of clogged drain but also refusals from janitors regarding the handling of sanitary waste. It’s either due to the taboo or fear of contamination.”

Amanda Martin: “As a nation of very private people whose culture encourages the segregation of men and women in many aspects of life, we have to expose Indian men to the facts in order that they have a better understanding of a woman’s problems.

“In doing this they begin to understand how a whole industry needs to be built up around dealing with an age old problem for the comfort and dignity of women and also the disabled people. As for disposable nappies, our babies wear today, do not let us leave this waste to present problems for our adults of the future.”

Attitude

Prashant Sule: “Another challenge that we encounter when marketing this product is convincing people with views like ‘why should I spend extra money to install a dispenser? We have been disposing it the normal way, why incur an additional cost?’

A minimum of four units would be like incurring an additional cost of Rs.25,000 per annum. ‘Why give a new idea to my ladies?’

“People abroad are prepared to talk about it, it is recognised. Even my sales guys, when they go on rounds address the issue with statements like ‘when a woman has a problem’. The other day, one Swiss lady who happened to hear this said ‘why do you call this a problem? This is no problem. This is a normal way of life’.”

Price factor

Vinay Ruparel: “The price is again a major criterion. Jade has introduced this product only in the metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. We are directly providing services to corporates which have an FM wing. We are not working directly with independent FM companies, for one, the cost factor and secondly, there is no additional benefit that FM companies will draw from their clients for providing this service. Many companies are expecting the rates to be around Rs.200 or Rs.250, which is not feasible in India. They also expect a van to come and collect the waste. What we are doing is first of its kind in India. We are dealing with dry waste. People don’t have to wait for a van to come and empty the disposers. We service it then and there. The biotech-treated waste in the bin takes care of the odour and contamination. The schedule is decided on the number of women workers. For every 25 women you require a minimum of two services a month. Servicing could be monthly, twice, thrice or even four times a month.”

Achieving standards

Let us focus on providing good means of sanitary disposal via a pedal-operated bin that need not be touched, and larger bins in disabled toilets and baby changing rooms. Building the infrastructure requires this waste to be disposed off by incineration or responsibly in land fills to avoid pollution of rivers and seas.

Do not let this type of image greet visitors to India and do not reduce yourselves to living with this appalling lack of hygiene. Your chance to impress the world and promote your country is just around the corner at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

There are many products available to help achieve a high standard in your washroom.

I was involved in the design of Technical Concepts new Mini Sanitary bin and I used a team of ladies of all ages to help me understand what women who would use the bin considered important. These women also worked as service girls, emptying around a hundred sanitary bins each day, so they also told me what was important from a service point of view.

Coupled with my own experience, I used their comments to design the Mini bin. It is smaller and more discreet, it has no dust traps where dirt can hide and it has a smooth surface for easy cleaning. The pedal makes the bin hands free, and it has a discretion flap to conceal waste already deposited, so ladies do not view the waste of other users.

Amanda Martin

Matter of protection

PCI Environmental Services has a full fledged system. We have five vehicles manned with a driver and a cleaner operating in Mumbai. They go and collect the sanitary disposal units from the centres and replace them with fresh ones, where we provide our service. They carry the unit in a nice shoulder case which is placed properly in the racks inside the vehicle. There are six workers in the cleaning shed working in two shifts.

Sanitary waste is emptied into the trash bags and left for the municipal van to collect. In all we have about 16 people to handle the show in Mumbai. We have around 300 clients and are providing 3500 units in Mumbai. In Bangalore, we are managing around 2000 units and in Chennai we have just started and are handling 200 units.

These workers are trained, especially in self protection and safety. We want to ensure that the workers neither in the wash area nor in the collection facilities are infected due to contamination or cross contamination. We train them in the use of personal protection equipment like hand gloves, mask, gumboots, goggles, etc. We also need to train the collectors on the proper way of handling and bringing the bin out of the office. Many a time in BPOs, they have to walk out right through the reception with the filled unit. We have special bags with shoulder straps. Further they are taught to lock the unit correctly and place it in the racks of the van so that these units do not tilt over and spill leading to contamination.

In the initial stage, the workers are not happy or comfortable to do this kind of job but with training and PowerPoint presentations about protection, the workers gain confidence and become comfortable with the job. Further, we also pay the cleaners much more than what is paid to the workers of their category. We provide them medical treatment and check-ups every six months and inoculate them against Hepatitis B.

These units once emptied are dismantled and washed with high pressure jet (60 bar) before being treated with detergent and chemical disinfectants. Ideally, there is no need to sterilise these units as the chemical component Activap placed inside ensures that the units are bacteria free.

After cleaning the units, the water is treated at the effluent treatment plant before being released into the drains. Thus the water which goes down the drain is also clean, ensuring that there is no chance of contamination at any stage.

We have one operating unit each in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. We are opening offices in Pune, New Delhi and Hyderabad in a month or so.

– Prashant Sule

Maintaining quality

We are an over 55-year-old company dealing with feminine hygiene and washroom services in the UK. In 1984, Cannon Hygiene became a part of OCS Facility Management. We maintain our independence, as OCS provides housekeeping services, training and aviation services. Cannon was the innovator of feminine hygiene products way back in the 60s. They were designed to collect sanitary waste, contained in a hygienic manner and disposed off in the right procedure. We use two forms of disposal, either at landfills or deep landfill site and another by incineration. This depends on the local authority, who decides on the way it is to be disposed off.

Since the sanitising fluid used is harmless, the cheapest way to dispose it off is in the landfill, as the cost of incineration will have to be borne by the provider. But, because plastic does not disintegrate for many years, the most ideal method would be incineration.

In the UK, with a population of 60 million, we are doing approximately 400,000 units per month. We have 24 sites in the UK airports, hotels… Each unit contains a sanitising mechanism, so any contaminant is treated within the unit. Decontamination of bacteria and viruses happens through a mechanism that uses wipes purely made of natural oils and plant extract. It is harmless to the environment. We install this wipe inside the unit which lasts for eight weeks. The service frequency varies in case of airports and places where the usage is high. On an average, it is once a month.

Where the cleaning of the units is concerned, it is exactly the same as what is being done in India. The only difference is that units are placed in the tunnel washing machine with high pressure jets which has been customised for Cannon Hygiene. The chemicals used are either JohnsonDiversey’s or as recommended by the manufacturer of the equipment.

We are providing service to most of Europe, the US, the UK, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. We have started housekeeping services in China this year. The Indian market is growing.

Now with products coming in from the UK, the costs are over 45% more due to excise. We are looking at opportunities to start a manufacturing unit in India, but that is not yet finalised. We are planning to introduce hand care products in India this year.

Steve Plevey
Divisional Director, Cannon International, UK


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