The inability to maintain healthy menstrual hygiene is a severe problem for over 500 million women across the globe. Thankfully, innovative organizations such as Sparkle are discovering better ways to get women the feminine products they need.
The startup, which will be visiting TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 later this week, is pioneering biodegradable sanitary pads made primarily from banana fibers. Its products boast superior absorbency and sustainability than traditional brands while avoiding artificial perfumes, plastics, and toxins.
Most importantly, these pads help reach and support populations of women in need—particularly those in India.
An Ongoing Crisis of India’s Poor Menstrual Hygiene
Poor menstrual hygiene is something that’s unfortunately commonplace in many resource-poor locations throughout the world.
It’s an issue that has a profound effect on the health and development of adolescent girls, as well as the future opportunities that they’ll have access to. For instance, in many countries, a general lack of information and access to good menstrual-care resources causes girls to undergo unhealthy practices that are sometimes life-threatening. It also causes them to experience frequent detrimental breaks in their educational and professional routines.
According to UNICEF, a 2010 study reported 23 percent of women in India drop out of school after hitting puberty. However, when students have access to adequate sanitary napkins, their dropout rate decreases by an average of 90 percent.
Now, consider how 75 percent of women living in India don’t have access to reliable forms of feminine hygiene. It starts to become clear how massively beneficial the impact of regularly available sanitary products could be.
Sparkle’s Ethical Initiatives for Safer Feminine Hygiene
Ethical-consumers have inspired a wave of sustainability-minded company movements. Sparkle is another prime example of that continued eco-friendly behavior and consumer demand.
The main plant-byproduct used in Sparkle’s goods, banana fiber, is sourced from India’s 800,000 hectares of banana plantations. Those harvesting fields generate over 64-million tons of agro-waste each year. Now, a portion of that excess plant-product is finally being put to good use in the form of a biodegradable sanitary pad alternative.
As Sparkle co-founder, Hetal Virani, points out, conventional sanitary pads often contain 90 percent plastic and do not biodegrade for upwards of 600 years after disposal. On the contrary, Sparkle is the first company to utilize plant-based ingredients like banana fiber in its sanitary napkin design.
Furthermore, to help women get the supplies they need, the company has created a “Buy One, Give One” initiative. Meaning, for every Sparkle pad a consumer purchases, the startup donates one to someone in India who needs it.
Even so, this is only the beginning of the company’s efforts. Within the next five years, the startup hopes to expand its reach to encompass 5 percent of the feminine hygiene product market across India (which is currently estimated to be worth $522 million USD).