Kenya: Woman Creates Biodegradable Pads From Agricultural Waste

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Thika — Most sanitary pads available for African women and girls are relatively expensive and classified as single-use plastics, which means some take hundreds of years to decompose. To help tackle this environmental problem, a woman-led Kenyan enterprise has created a low cost, biodegradable pad made from agricultural waste.

From a distance, you might think that Mary Nyaruai is simply disposing of agricultural waste at her home in Thika, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

But what she is actually doing is making biodegradable sanitary pads.

After facing difficulties finding safe-quality pads herself, Nyaruai thought of a solution using readily available raw materials.

“Maize is a staple in Africa and this is waste,” said Nyaruai. “So I normally go and collect it from the market. And this is also waste, pineapple leaves are waste, so I also collect them from the farms. So when you combine those two, you make a very beautiful pad that is soft. It delivers in comfort and also absorption and it is also sustainable, which is a brilliant thing.”

Once collected, the agricultural wastes undergo rigorous processes to break down the natural fibers and mold the raw material into biodegradable sanitary pads.

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Nyaruai’s company is called Nyungu Afrika, loosely translated to “womb of Africa.”

Her pads are getting good reviews. Nyambura Maina is one of Nyaruai’s customers.

“It felt like I was sitting on clouds because the material is very different. Her pads are very soft, the absorbency is good,” said Maina. “It becomes really a life saver for yourself.”