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!