Padcare – Recycling pads to paper

April 29, 2024

Approximately 121 million Indian women, or 36% of menstruating women, use sanitary napkins, generating a staggering 12.3 billion napkins, equivalent to 1,13,000 tons of waste annually, according to a news report. Most of this biohazardous waste ends up in landfills. Some of it is burnt or incinerated, though those options also have environmental costs. And some ends up in our waterways.

All of this becomes a women’s problem – they have to dispose of it by hiding it in all kinds of wrappers before it starts smelling, they have to sort through it in waste segregation facilities after it does. While there are solid waste management rules to cater to segregation and incineration, there are not enough facilities, nor is there enforcement of the rules to protect women (and children) from biological waste or incineration/burning fumes and black carbon. While the problem is known and discussed even in academic circles, there doesn’t appear to be a solution.

21-year old Ajinkya Dhariya wanted to do something about this. He applied for a government grant to come up with an electric box that could be put in bathrooms. That idea failed due to the lack of electricity sockets in bathrooms. But it led to him assembling a team – including women – to solve the problem. Padcare Labs now has a viable solution.

Padcare’s solution offers hygiene-as-a-service. The full solution comprises –

  1. Installing a sanitary vending machine at women’s toilets and a disposal box inside the cubicles; the disposal boxes have a proprietary vapour technology that neutralizes bacterial growth, and hence foul smell, allowing them to be emptied less frequently
  2. Replacing the disposal boxes on a monthly basis (depending on how often they get filled up); the boxes are taken to a central facility in each city where the inside lining is put inside their proprietary machine
  3. The machine uses mechanical and chemical processes to separate the cellulose and plastic in the sanitary pads; the cellulose comes out as shreds while the plastic as industry-standards pellets; the shredded cellulose is further dehydrated and can then be made into paper; the water used in the whole process is recycled to be used again

The company raised capital to build facilities in each city and to hire sales as well as collection staff. It decided to focus on the organised sector first, being large corporations and colleges. The sales experience has been encouraging, with a high proportion of large companies signing up.

In an interview with Rainmatter, Ajinkya explained that he didn’t want to license the technology at this stage of the firm’s journey. His vision is to make the machines available to women’s self-help groups, ideally, the same ones that make sanitary pads so it becomes a picture of circularity.

As we publish the interview in April 2024, Padcare is planning expansion across multiple cities. We wish Padcare success in scaling the product and company.

Where Zerocircle was a story of a single female founder finding her way in a usually man’s technical world of materials, Padcare is a story of a single young man tackling a women’s issue. Both inspire us to keep having climate conversations.



Consulting producer, Zerodha

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