Stanford Scientists Develop Sustainable Menstrual Material from Sisal Leaves

  • 10 Jan 2024

In a bid to enhance the environmental sustainability of menstrual hygiene products, researchers at Stanford University have devised a method to create a "highly absorbent and retentive material" from sisal leaves.

  • This material, offers a potential alternative to cotton, wood pulp, and chemical absorbents in sanitary napkins, with a higher absorption capacity than commercially available counterparts.

Key Points

  • Sustainable Menstrual Hygiene: The material boasts higher absorption capacity compared to commercial menstrual pads.
  • The process uses no polluting or toxic chemicals, supports local small-scale production, and is environmentally sustainable.
  • Addressing Menstrual Hygiene Challenges: Despite a significant rise in hygienic methods globally, access to menstrual hygiene products remains limited for around 500 million people, particularly in low-income countries.
  • Rising costs of raw materials and distribution pose challenges in making sanitary napkins accessible.
  • Traditional absorbent materials, often a combination of wood pulp and synthetic polymers, contribute to environmental pollution.
  • Sisal as a Sustainable Alternative: Sisal, a succulent plant with water-storing capabilities, proves advantageous for sustainable production.
  • The sisal leaves undergo a process involving a decorticator and delignification, inspired by termite guts and wood-rot fungi.
  • The resulting cellulose fibre exhibits superior absorption capabilities, surpassing commercially used cotton in tests.
  • Environmental Impact and Water Use: The "aspirational case" envisions on-site production of raw materials using solar energy, making the process comparable to commercial methods.
  • Sisal cultivation requires significantly less water than cotton, contributing to a more sustainable menstrual product production process.
  • Global Collaboration and Future Plans: Pilot production in Nepal aims not only at manufacturing but also teaching and training.
  • A global program engages high school students to test the process with local plants, promoting diversity in materials and environmental conditions.
  • Distributed quality control and manufacturing are central to the vision, aiming to address menstrual health challenges in an open-source framework.