Design of a Compostable Menstrual Pad: Fluid acquisition layer and absorbent core
The build-up of non-biodegradable waste is an ever-growing issue in modern society. In one lifetime, a person can produce up to 300 lb of plastic waste by using disposable menstrual products (Labine, 2021). Major manufacturers of menstrual pads make their products out of mostly non-biodegradable materials that end up in landfills. The non-biodegradable components can take up to 800 years to decompose (Pebery et al. 2019). Aruna Revolution is a company that is working towards creating a compostable menstrual pad to provide a solution to the waste contribution of menstrual products. The intended outcome of this project was to create two layers of a compostable menstrual pad, the fluid acquisition layer and the absorbent core that meets current comfort and performance expectations from users. The project’s scope was to research and develop a nonwoven textile for use as the topmost fluid acquisition layer of a menstrual pad and a layer that will serve as the absorbent core, using cattail fibres. The use of cattails is shown to be sustainable, and they are known to be readily available in North America. An experimental plan was created to develop wet-laid nonwoven prototypes with varying leaf and seed fibre ratios to determine the influence of each type of fibre on how the sample interacts with synthetic menstrual fluid. Additionally, fibre samples were sent to Aruna Revolution, in partnership with Southeast Nonwovens to develop various samples using a hydroentanglement method. The test results showed that a nonwoven material created with a hydroentanglement process using 95% seed fibres and 5% hemp fibres is suitable for the fluid acquisition layer. Additionally, a nonwoven material created using 100% leaf fibres with a wetlaid nonwoven method is suitable for the absorbent core. Several test methods were used to verify that the final design met design constraints. Fluid property tests such as the fluid acquisition test and rewet test were completed on the fluid acquisition layer and absorbency tests were completed on the absorbent core. Additional tests were completed such as anti-microbial test, allergen test, durability test and stiffness test to understand how the samples will interact with the user. All test results were promising for the final design and both menstrual pad layers met the design constraints.