August 27

Hempact in developing biodegradable pads as part of a growing trend to curb waste

EDMONTON – A group of student entrepreneurs at the University of Alberta has a vision: waste-free menstrual products.

Hempact, a student-run startup in Edmonton, is developing a pad made of hemp fibres, biodegradable plastics, and adhesives to curb period-related waste.

"We are moving towards a bigger shift towards not using plastic," said Nicole Sanchez, Hempact's project manager. "Not only is [Hempact] more sustainable, it's also a product you can easily transition to."

The average woman in North America throws away about 113 to 136 kilograms of pads, tampons and applicators in her lifetime, according to Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation.

That's why women might prefer Hempact's pads to The DivaCup, a reusable silicone cup for menstruation, Sanchez said.

"If you're used to using conventional pads, you don't have to change your habits," the 22-year-old said.

Five women started Hempact after winning an innovation competition hosted by the Clean Energy Technology Centre in 2017. 

The team then moved to Enactus, a startup hub at the University of Alberta that pairs student entrepreneurs with industry professionals and professors. 

After two years of research and development, Hempact is close to completing the first iteration of their pad.

Anka Chan, who leads Hempact's research and development, said the team is aiming for a prototype in December.

The team is aware that biodegradable materials still end up in landfills, Chan said, so she's consulting with experts to ensure Hempact's pads break down after being tossed out.

"We have those types of resources available, and it'll truly allow us to focus on the biodegradability aspect as we develop our final product," she said.

Hempact isn't the only group fighting for a waste-free Edmonton. 

The city is considering a ban on single-use plastic products and other disposable materials, like bags, straws and take-out containers, as early as January 2021, according to a report released Tuesday.

Councillor Ben Henderson said there's significant public support in Edmonton for phasing out waste. Read More