Sanitary pads take 250-800 years to decompose, which is pushing young Indians to opt for greener alternatives

Sanitary pads take 250-800 years to decompose, which is pushing young Indians to opt for greener alternatives
  • Non-organic period care products rack up a huge bill, both to the pocket and the environment.
  • GenZ and millennials are turning to menstrual cups, period discs, reusable pads and period panties to save plastic pollution caused by sanitary napkins.
  • Business Insider India speaks to new-age hygiene brands about the future of sustainability in the period care industry.
Every year, around 12.3 billion used sanitary pads are dumped in landfills in India, said a report by the environmental group Toxics Link. Each of these non-organic sanitary pads is equivalent to four plastic bags, and it takes 250-800 years to decompose. And, some may never decompose at all.

To reduce their carbon footprint on Earth, young millennials and GenZs are switching to greener options like menstrual cups, reusable pads, period discs, tampons, period panties, etc. Not only are these alternatives greener but some of them are also cheaper.
Sanitary pads take 250-800 years to decompose, which is pushing young Indians to opt for greener alternatives
Lemme Be

“There are more than 35 crore menstruating women in India. If all of them use 20 pads in a month, just imagine the mammoth amount of plastic waste we can generate. Fast forward to 50 years, all countries will be drowned in pads if they remain in our system for 500-800 years,” says Devidutta Dash, founder of new-age menstrual care startup Lemme Be.

This pushed Dash to launch Lemme Be, a sustainable period care brand two years ago. “Today, we are growing at 30-40% month-on-month and we expect to make about ₹30 crore of revenue this financial year,” Dash told Business Insider India.
Sanitary pads take 250-800 years to decompose, which is pushing young Indians to opt for greener alternatives

Period care brand Sirona Hygiene says it’s bringing in 20,000-30,000 new consumers for its menstrual cups, every month.


“About a million women have moved to our cups and this is without any advertising. Indian women are being far more open to trying products which are helping her get through her period better than what the pad does,” said Deep Bajaj, founder and CEO of Sirona Hygiene.

Pee Safe too says that cups have picked up in the last 18 months.

“Unlike the US, where people started moving from pads to tampons, in India we see that they are moving from pads directly to cups,” said Vikas Bagaria, founder and CEO of Pee Safe.

Bagaria said that the overall menstrual hygiene market is pegged around ₹6,000-7,000 crore, which he says is a duopoly between the giants Whispers and Stayfree occupying 90% of the market.

Within that, the sustainable category is picking up pace and is growing at the rate of 100% year-on-year, said Bajaj. While there is no specific data available on this nascent market, he said, it could be worth around ₹100 crore overall already.

As per Toxics Link’s report, 80% of women and girls in urban India use inorganic disposable sanitary pads. A study by them says that 88% of respondents were willing to switch to environment-friendly alternatives.

Hygiene brands have also started manufacturing locally, which has slashed prices.

“Previously, we were selling it for ₹499 when we were importing from China and now the price is ₹349, almost ₹100 reduction,” Bagaria told Business Insider India.

Tier II, III city consumers make the green shift too

Kerala and Goa saw many early adopters of these options. Sirona, Lemme Be and Pee Safe say they have many users from Tier II and III cities too. For the sustainable category, Bajaj says, psychographics are more important than demographics.

“I have users who are let's say earning ₹20,000 a month and users who make ₹5,00,000 a month. I have users who are earning lakhs and lakhs and don't move to a new product and I have users who are not really earning that well and are still using it. So we talk to a mindset,” said Bajaj.

Pee Safe conducted a study among its consumers in the late 40s to find out what stops them from using a cup or a tampon.

“They said because their parents didn't allow us to insert anything inside the vagina. Their children, millennials and Gen Zs, are giving them confidence to try it out,” Bagaria said.

As consumer brands spend more on marketing dollars to raise awareness and address the taboos around menstruation, sustainable menstrual hygiene is expected to grow at a faster pace.

“It's definitely ₹1,000 crore category in-the-making, where women will make greener choices for themselves not only for their period product, but other female hygiene needs,” Bajaj told Business Insider India.