Innovator creates incinerator for sanitary pads

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Mumbua shows how the face mask incinerator works. Photo/PD/Milliam Murigi

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Have you ever walked into a public toilet and found sanitary waste disposal bins overflowing?

Well, this is a common scenario women come across so often as most of these facilities lack adequate sanitary products waste disposal systems.

Menstrual hygiene management has been an alarming issue, with some communities binding women with social restrictions and taboo to hide menstruation topics.

However many people  have now started opening up about it, and among the topics is, disposal of these products.

With the rise in usage of sanitary pads, the risk of environmental pollution has become higher as they take over 500 years to decompose.

However, Catherine Mumbua Wanjoya from Kahawa Sukari, Kiambu has come up with a brilliant innovation that has the potential to change many lives in Kenya.

A low-cost sanitary pad incinerator, known as GenBurn, will help numerous women in discarding these products in an environment-friendly way.

Mumbua is the founder of Genesis Care manufacturers of the Genesis range of products, which include Genesis sanitary pad, Genesis sanitary pad dispenser, Genesis sanitary pad disposal incinerator and Genesis adult diaper.

“Back in 2017 together with my family, we went to my village and donated some sanitary towels.

Two months later while I was in Nairobi I came into contact with an overflowing sanitary waste disposal bin.

This made me think I created another problem back in my village after solving one.

This is how the idea of coming up with a product, which could solve the menstrual waste problem,” she says.

This prompted her to do some research, after, which made her realise there is a huge gap in menstrual waste management.

The main reasons include that sanitary pads incinerators available are costly thus unaffordable and other methods used are not environmentally friendly.

“This is when the urge of coming up with a low-cost incinerator for disposal of used sanitary napkins was borne,” she explains.

As the first step, Mumbua created a vision for the incinerator. It had to be low cost and required work on two major aspects; technical and commercial.

Then came the question of materials. After toying with multiple ideas, she decided on durable material.

For the technical part, she worked with her team of engineers and explained to them what  product she wanted to come up with.

She also did physical visits to different schools, where she learnt most of them lacked proper menstrual waste management and she saw both the need and  business aspect part of it.

One year later, she had patented the product. She was also lucky to participate in  a competition, ‘I   AM 2.0’ initiative, whose objective was to generate innovative solutions in response to challenges related to sexual and reproductive health, sexuality education, family planning, maternal health, and other population development issues with emphasis on promoting women entrepreneurship.

She emerged one of the winners and walked away with Sh1 million. She used the money for piloting as well as scaling up production.

The initiative was supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Graça Machel Trust, and Nairobi Incubation Lab. 

 Terms and conditions 

She was also lucky to be one of the exhibitors  at the 2018  annual Heads of Secondary Schools meeting in Mombasa.

A good number of principals were attracted to her innovation and she got her first clients.

“Selling the idea was not hard for me since there was a need for it. However, financial challenge was one of many reasons some clients had to back off.

We had to come up with agreeable terms and conditions and that is how our business kick-started,” Mumbua says.

With the incinerator, the napkins are destroyed under a particular temperature, which does not spread harmful toxins into the atmosphere.

The ashes are sterile and can be used as fertiliser or can be disposed of with normal garbage.

“I realised if disposal was taken care of, it would become easier to convince women to use sanitary pads.

That is why I am creating awareness of the available environmental friendly sanitary napkins disposal methods,” says Mumbua.

However, Mumbua’s business hasn’t been spared by Covid-19. With her main customers being schools, she had to think outside the box now that schools are closed.

And to ensure her business remains afloat she is now manufacturing incinerators for disposing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits such as masks and gloves.

Currently, they are piloting the face mask incinerator as they continue to work on a bigger incinerator that can handle all types of PPE kits.

“I noticed PPE kits are now becoming a threat to our health and environment; that is why I decided to adjust our incinerators to adapt them.

Our incinerators are of different sizes and can serve from individuals to large institutions,” she says.

Their incinerator’s price ranges from Sh20,000 to Sh320,000. The smallest one is for individuals while the biggest one, which can serve up to 10,000 girls, is fit for bigger institutions.

A standard one, which could serve a school /organisation of 300, costs Sh75,000. They have also come up with a prototypical incinerator for diapers that works pretty much the same.

“Our incinerators are electric and noiseless. They reduce a sanitary towel to a gram of sterile ash within minutes,” she adds.

More on Lifestyle