|Brown Algae in Norway|
Photo by Ximonic, CC BY-SA 4.0
Each year, nearly 20 billion sanitary pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills. (Quotation Source: University of Utah News Release)
Candida albicans growing on agar in a yeast form
and in a filamentous form.
Photo by Garnhami, CC BY-SA 4.0
The SHERO Pad
Agarose is a polymer and a polysaccharide that is obtained from the agar in seaweed. Polymers are long molecules made of repeating subunits. In a polysaccharide, the subunits are sugar molecules. In biology, the word "sugar" refers to a family of chemicals instead of just sucrose, or table sugar.
Agar (sometimes known as agar-agar) is a substance obtained from certain algae that forms a gel when added to water. It's often supplied to the public in a dried form as a powder or flakes. When water is added to the dried agar, the gel is produced. Agar is used as a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. It's also a common substrate for bacteria in the petri dishes used in biology and medical labs. Agarose is one of the chemicals in agar that is responsible for its ability to form gels.
The inventors of the new pad say that once discarded it will break down within forty-five days to six months. The difference in time presumably depends on the environmental conditions. The pads are said to be completely degradable, unlike some pads that claim to be so.
The average woman will menstruate for about four decades and use an estimated 16,800 sanitary pads or tampons in the process — that’s 250 to 300 pounds of waste. In the U.S. alone, some 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of annually. (Quotation Source: grist.org)
Creating and Selling the Pad
The researchers have launched a startup company and hope to have the product available in Guatemala and for sale in the United States within a year. They also say that it may be possible for communities in some parts of Guatemala to produce the pads themselves from local materials, as long as they have a grinding stone and a press. It will be interesting to see how practical this process is. It will also be interesting to see if the pads are as effective and as biodegradable as the researchers believe.