Will we ever see incontinence products made from 100% renewable materials?

Incontinence pads are also about forest industry

Forest industry may not be the first thing to associate with something as intimately embodied as incontinence care.

Producing the fluff to the pads’ absorbent layers, it is, however, a key industry in the production of the pads.

While solving the question of  sustainable land usage remains key for the sustainability of forest industry, it may also provide solutions for a more sustainable future for adult incontinence care.

Along with a range of experts from other fields, our project’s PI, Tiina Vaittinen, was interviewed for this podcast, produced by Stora Enso, which asks:

Will we ever see incontinence products made from 100% renewable materials?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

 

Contact

You can contact us by email: tiina.vaittinen (A) tuni.fi.

People

 


This is us. If you have joint research interests, and want to be affiliated with the team – or are interested in conducting PhD or MA thesis project on the themes of our project – please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Photo: Jonne Renvall, Tampere University

Dr. TIINA VAITTINEN 

is Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Fellow in Tampere University, for whom mapping the global political economy of the pads has been a dream project for a long time.

She holds a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is specialised in mapping complex global political economies of care, from the micro-level of everyday life to the macro-level of international and transnational politics. Identifying herself as a social scientist, broadly speaking, Tiina likes to study phenomena of the world across disciplinary boundaries. She loves to learn the ways to translate between different professional jargons, and find common ground for conversation. She’s a bit lazy at updating her personal websites, LinkedIns and CVs and such. You can, however, read about Tiina’s past doings here. Sometimes, the list is up-to-date.

 

Dr. EVELIINA ASIKAINEN

is a Senior Lecturer in the Tampere University of Applied Sciences. She works in the project  from September 2020 to May 2021, as a co-investigator in  the work package that focuses on the pad as waste, and the possibilities of future circular economy. Also Eveliina’s contribution to the project is made possible by the Kone Foundation grant.

 

Dr. CHRISTOPHER CHATTERTON

is Postdoctoral Researcher. Based in the UK, he worked in the Kone Foundation funded project from November 2019 until November 2020, looking at experiences of living with incontinence. He still joins the project activities and consults us where need be.

 

TUULIA LAHTINEN (RN)

works in the project as research assistant. She is an MA student in Health Sciences in Tampere University. She is Registered Nurse and Public Health Nurse by training, and has professional experience in public services resposible for the provision of continence products and other medical supplies. In the project, Tuulia assists the team in data collection, and she is also preparing her MA thesis in collaboration with the project.

 

What we do

The adult incontinence pad is a mundane commodity that is used, worn, and disposed of by hundreds of millions of people everyday across the world. Yet, very little is known about its circulation in the global economy – which is what our project seeks to understand.

The adult incontinence pad is not simply a gendered question of disgust, shame, or public expense – as it tends to be protrayed in public discourse. Rather, it is a globally productive economic field imbued with political and ethical tensions, which need be solved for the future of care to be sustainable.

The project begins with the recognition that the adult incontinence pad is never just one thing. Instead, each pad has various parallel realities.

The pad is technology, as well as an everyday commodity for different user groups – men as well as women; young as well as old; people who wear the pads themselves, and people who use the pad when providing incontinence pads for others; institutional care providers, both public and private, are important “user groups” too, for this mundane commodity and health product.

Locally as well as globally, the pad is also a site of economic inequalities and a privilege to use.

Image: iStock, by Dzurag

Furthermore, throughout its life-cycle, the adult incontinence pad both produces waste and is waste.

Image: iStock, by D-Keine

In this project, we examine the global political economies in four“pad realities” (technology, commodity , the pad site of inequalities, waste), and see what kinds of challenges of sustainability emerge as these realities entangle with one another.

How does, for instance, the technolological development and marketing of the pads account for the lived realities of different pad users?

Whose voices are heard, and why – whose experiences remain silenced? How does urban infrastructure account for the needs of adults who live with incontinence? How is pad waste managed in different societies – and is there a role for circular economy?

How does the pad industry work, together with different stakeholders, to reduce the ecological burden that this disposable hygiene product has across the world?

How is adult incontinence managed in contexts where disposable products are not available, or they are too expensive to use?  

How do these different challenges of sustainability entangle with one another, and how can they be solved, together with the different stakeholders?

Image: iStock, by whyframestudio

In close collaboration with different interest groups, the project locates the ethical challenges in the global pad industry, with the aim of co-imagining socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable solutions to them.

Bringing attention to silenced and marginalised knowledges of adult incontinence in both global north and global south, the project seeks to reduce the stigma attached to living with the condition.

Throughout the project, we organise multi-stakeholder workshops, both as a means of data gathering and dissemination – and are interested in collaborating with you. Want to get involved? Do get in touch!