Herald: Meet the ‘Terminator’ of sanitary waste

Meet the ‘Terminator’ of sanitary waste

03 Sep 2017 06:40am IST
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03 Sep 2017 06:40am IST

Pio Esteves meets Eleuterio Carneiro who is using white termites to shred used Sanitary Napkins naturally

Other than the growing wet and dry waste, the medical waste, especially the sanitary waste, is on the rise in our tiny state of Goa and due to no proper means for its disposal; it is found littered along the roadside or in any available open space.

After finding an instant solution for disposal of wet waste, Eleuterio Carneiro, a Fine Arts graduate from Goa College of Art, Panaji and presently serving as a Art teacher at DSE’s St Anthony’s High School, Canacona, has moved a step forward and tried to find a solution to dispose of sanitary waste, without causing harm to the environment.

“Even as there is a gradual progression towards urbanization of villages with mega projects which in turn comprise numerous units,” he says, “these produce heaps of garbage which are left to by the road side since the existing mega projects do not have garbage disposal system. Many a times neither authorities like village panchayats and municipalities have dedicated manpower to do routine checkup and the garbage is allowed to swell by the day."

Carneiro says that the  increase of sanitary napkins and diapers in the waste dumped by the road side, which is also considered as medical waste as per the waste management guidelines, has raised eyebrows among the concerned citizens. “The present day sanitary napkins available in the market are with plastic layer along with chemical coating, thus becoming hazardous to human health and environment, since it does not decompose and remains in the soil for years together,” he explains.

With regards to his project of termites (white ants) shredding used sanitary napkins naturally, Carneiro has a personal experience to relate. “One fine evening in June 2015, after returning back home from agricultural work,” he shares, “I kept my rubber slippers in the backyard. Very next day I was shocked to see that the bottom layer of the slippers had disappeared, leaving only the top white coating and belts.” With an inquisitive mind, he found that the creatures behind this phenomenon was the Subterranean white termite (Isoptera) community found in the Western Ghats of south India.

“These Subterranean white termites stay either on the half dead wood or ground with moulds,” Carneiro explains, “their main source of food is cellulose which contains of wood, which is easily available in box boards, news papers, wood chipping, wood saw dust, etc.”

“The very thought that came to my mind is that if these termites can shred my rubber slippers, why not shred used sanitary napkins by using termites?,” Carneiro informed. He took a PVC drum filled with saw dust, wood chippings, box board pieces and used sanitary napkins along with white termites.

This novel project of Carneiro is under research and during observation and study period, it was noted that the subterranean white termites could survive without water for hardly four to five days. “They also require air and soil in the unit,” he investigated, “they leave in a colony which consist of a Queen (female) male, workers, soldiers and others. “If the unit which is used does not consist of a Queen among the other workers, then the termites naturally commits suicide and die,” he added.

After two years of intense research, Carneiro said that the unit was modified with air inlet, besides water soaked half dead wood blog inside along with high contain cellulose box board pieces, soil and used sanitary napkins. “The white ants (termites) shred the used sanitary napkins along with other cellulose contents in the unit. The by-product is just like a wet mud.

Carneiro says the said project which is under research, needs further scientific laboratory testing of the by-product created by the termites, in order to check if it is environmentally safe for disposal as compost.

During his two-year research time, Carneiro, who hails from Navelim, and is a social worker and environment activist, has come across some Indian companies producing sanitary napkins out of natural substances like cotton and biogradable cloth, wherein these sanitary napkins when disposed can easily get decomposed in course of time. So, he suggests that such napkins could be used in such units wherein termites could shred it naturally and the by-product would not be harmful to the environment.
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