PUNE: Sangita, a waste-picker at SWaCH — an organisation that provides door-to-door garbage collection services — is disturbed by the callousness with which is often disposed of in the city.

“Our members are frequently falling sick because they have to handle used diapers and sanitary napkins that are not disposed of properly. People brazenly dump their sanitary waste in the dustbins without even wrapping them. The rain makes matters worse. Handling such waste is hazardous to our health,” she said.

So she now plans to conduct awareness programmes in some housing societies in the Kondwa area. Along with other SWaCH members, she will be meeting the society members. The SWaCH members feel there should be bigger mass awareness programmes.

Last year, the was launched to sensitise people on this issue. Suchismita Pai, the outreach manager of SWaCH, said the campaign promotes the proper method to dispose of diapers and sanitary napkins — securely wrapping the used pad/diaper in newspaper and marking the pack with a red dot. “While many housing societies are following the instructions, there is still a lack of awareness. Handling unmarked sanitary waste is disgusting. The waste-pickers and garbage handlers should not have to deal with that,” Pai said.

“Though the initiative has garnered appreciation, behaviour change takes time. We need better awareness coupled with enforcement to ensure compliance. This might mean picking up only segregated and marked waste,” she said. Waste-pickers themselves are taking the lead, she added.

Lakshmi Narayana, the co-founder of the Indian waste-pickers‘ union and cooperative, said, “While we had brought out separate bags for the disposal of sanitary waste and are even writing to the sanitary pad manufacturers to have separate disposal pouches, the easiest way is to dispose the pads/diapers by wrapping them in newspaper and marking them with a red dot,” she said. She added that most people do not like being told what to do. “People do not like it. But, we must talk to them if they continue to ignore the instructions. sanitary waste exposes people to harmful pathogens and diseases,” said Narayana.