‘Middle class more aware of red dot campaign’

Pranita Roy
Sunday, 12 May 2019

Pune: Although overall awareness about Red Dot campaign, aimed at proper disposal of used sanitary napkins, has increased in last three years, waste pickers in the city have revealed that upper-class and well-educated people still don’t follow the practice of marking the wrapped packet with a red dot.

The ones who actually follow it are people living in areas dominated by middle-class citizens. 

Pune: Although overall awareness about Red Dot campaign, aimed at proper disposal of used sanitary napkins, has increased in last three years, waste pickers in the city have revealed that upper-class and well-educated people still don’t follow the practice of marking the wrapped packet with a red dot.

The ones who actually follow it are people living in areas dominated by middle-class citizens. 

According to Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH), which started this initiative, about 50,000 bags with red dots are sold per month to households. The number was 20,000 bags per month when the campaign kicked off in 2017. 

Initially, SWaCH had requested citizens to mark the wrapped sanitary disposal themselves with a prominent red dot to spare the waste pickers from directly handling it. However, it received a lukewarm response. Then, the organisation started to provide a paper bag with a red dot bag, much to the convenience of the citizens.

Not everyone follows
Surprisingly, the well-educated and upper-class people are the ones lagging behind in following the campaign. However, the number of people following this practice has doubled, waste pickers estimated based on their experience.

They have also stated that most of sincere users of the red dot bags are middle class people.

“We still receive unwrapped sanitary waste from at least 50 out of 100 houses,” said Shobha Bansode, a waste picker who works at Prabhat Road -- an upscale area in Pune.

“It is shocking that well educated people from a lot of good societies don’t utilise these bags or even wrap the used sanitary napkins properly. We repeatedly visit them to create awareness and tell them how difficult it is for us to segregate open sanitary waste,” said Bansode.

Bansode makes sure to visit at least two-three societies regularly between her work time to raise awareness about Red Dot campaign.

Balu Pawar, who collects waste from around 450 houses in Dhankawadi, said that face-to-face confrontation with families sometimes doesn’t happen as they don’t open the door to talk. “Whenever we get a chance to talk, they give excuses like we forgot, or hesitation in asking their guests to use those bags,” said Pawar.

Unpleasant sight
Waste pickers said the unpleasant sight of open sanitary waste leaves them disgusted. “We feel nauseated after encountering such sanitary napkins. At times we can’t eat properly. The sight is horrific, especially at the PMC waste disposal area where this waste is sent for processing,” said Pawar.

“This unwrapped sanitary waste can’t be sold back to the stakeholders. It also doesn’t get processed properly,” said Bansode.

Suchismita Pai, also a member of SWaCH and in charge of its outreach team, said, “Behavioural change always takes time. The awareness of Red Dot Campaign has been underway in different city-based housing societies in the areas including Aundh, Ghole Road, Prabhat Road, Koregaon Park, Kothrud, Warje, NIBM road and Magarpatta, in addition to schools and colleges.

Awareness increased
Director of SWaCH Aparna Susarla revealed how they now get 25 phone calls enquiring about this campaign, compared to two-three calls back in 2017.

“The sale of bags have also increased,” she said.

The bags, which already have a red dot on it, are available for Rs 60 for a pack of 30. 

About the campaign
- The Red Dot campaign was initiated to make citizens wrap used sanitary disposals carefully with a mark so as to prevent direct contact of the waste pickers from unpleasant view of the open sanitary waste. The used sanitary napkins emits biohazardous gases. 
- It also aimed to ensure dignity of sanitary workers and waste-pickers. A mark on the sanitary waste enables waste pickers to directly send the sanitary waste to the PMC for processing and disposal without opening or touching it while segregating the garbage.

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