Richard Bbaale of BanaPads Inc. in Uganda will recycle the discarded pseudo stems of banana plants to produce a non-toxic biopolymer and develop biodegradable sanitary pads for women and girls in underserved communities. Uganda produces roughly 10% of the world's bananas, which results in over 30 million tons per year of pseudo stem waste that is currently left to rot. They will extract the cellulose from the pseudo stem, which is the trunk of the banana plant that is cut off once the bananas have been picked, and use it to synthesize the biopolymer, carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC). This will then be combined with non-toxic additives to produce the different layers of a sanitary pad, namely the water-soluble film, an adhesive, fibrous elastic, and absorbent foam, that can be safely flushed down the toilet and gets degraded by bacteria in the septic sewage. Once the materials have been developed, they will produce a prototype pad for testing.
More information about Innovations in Materials Science for a Transformative Menstrual Health and Hygiene Product (Round 25)