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Biodegradable sanitary pads

In Bangladesh TNO is improving the menstrual hygiene of women and girls, which allows them to increase their social and economic participation, health and wellbeing. This year we realized 49 school campaigns reaching 8,207 girls in the age from 11-13, raised awareness at 400 mothers and fathers, trained 191 teachers with a curriculum on menstrual hygiene, launched an online platform and TV serie and developed biodegradable pads.

The Challenge
The needs assessment found that there are high numbers of barriers to girls having safe menstrual hygiene in Bangladesh. These barriers can be categorised into three areas: poor access to adequate WASH facilities, a lack of knowledge of biological processes, and taboos restricting females’ behaviour during menstruation. In 2015 we started the four-year Ritu programme to tackle all those barriers. ‘Ritu’ is a Bangladeshi word for ‘menstruation cycle’. In Ritu we improve the menstrual health of women and girls, which allows them to increase their social and economic participation and thereby both directly and indirectly improves their health and wellbeing. The programme combines Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene interventions in schools and communities for a holistic approach to improving menstrual hygiene.

The Solution: Full biodegradable pads

The needs assessment showed that girls see sanitary pads as the best option for MHM, a view which is backed by their parents. Currently, 60% of menstruating girls is using sanitary pads. The programme needs to capitalise on the high levels of interest in pads and work with manufacturers to improve accessibility through addressing issues such as costing and quality.  As partner in the Ritu project TNO took the necessary actions to ensure that biodegradable sanitary napkins will become available in Bangladesh in 2018 so that the improvement of hygiene does not create an environmental disaster. The collaboration of TNO and the Dutch company Rodenburg Biopolymers since 2016 resulted in coming to a successful recipe for the industrial production of biodegradable thin foil at an affordable price. This foil is made of an innovative blend of potato starch and clay and can be used as water resistant ant-leakage layer in sanitary pads. Based on this business case analysis it is shown that biodegradable sanitary napkins can be sold for 0,05 US dollar per napkin which is equal to the current lowest price for which basic napkins are available in Bangladesh at the moment.


The Ritu Programme is a joint initiative of Simavi, RedOrange, Rodenburg and TNO and is implemented in close collaboration with BNPS and DORP in Bangladesh. The programme is designed and implemented fol¬lowing an Evidence Based Programming approach. As part of this approach, we are working with the Impact Centre of the Erasmus University and Maastricht University to evaluate the programme. Ritu is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Dhaka with 3,4 million euro.