the inspiration of this event to the Hoftex
Group Board of Directors. As a result, we
may see further investments come here
even faster than was originally planned.”
The first commercial production for the
new machine occurred during the first
week of January 2017.
University Researchers Develop
Biodegradable Maxi Pad
A team of students led by University of
Utah materials science and engineering
assistant professor Jeff Bates has developed a new, 100% biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made out of natural
materials and is much thinner and more
comfortable than other similar products.
The SHERO Pad uses a processed form
of algae as its superabsorbent ingredient.
The absorbent material is then covered
with cotton and the same material that
makes up tea bags. The result is a maxi pad
that is effective, comfortable to wear and
can break down in anywhere from 45 days
to six months.
“This is novel in comparison to other
biodegradable options out there for pads,”
said Amber Barron, a University of Utah
junior materials science and engineering
major who is on the team of four students.
“Most are really bulky because they don’t
have a superabsorbent layer.”
The need for something like the SHE-
RO Pad originally came from SHEVA, a
nonprofit advocacy group for women and
girls in Guatemala, which turned to Bates
because it was looking for a sustainable
solution for feminine hygiene waste. One
of Bates’ area of research is in hydrogels,
which are water-absorbing polymers.
“In Guatemala, there’s no public sani-
tation system. All the rivers are black be-
cause they are so polluted,” Bates says.
“So there really is a genuine need for
people in Guatemala to have biodegrad-
Nearly 20 billion sanitary pads, tam-
pons and applicators are dumped into
North American landfills every year, and it
takes centuries for them to biodegrade in-
side plastic bags, according to a 2016 Har-
vard Business School report. Additionally,
it requires high amounts of fossil fuel en-
ergy to produce the plastic for these prod-
ucts, resulting in a large carbon footprint.
Part of the inspiration for this solution
came to Bates one night while feeding his
five-year-old daughter. “One day we were
eating dinner with white rice, and my
daughter spilled it all over the floor,” he
says about that night two years ago. “The
next morning, when I was cleaning it up,
it was all dry and crusted. I drove to work
and thought, ‘What was it about rice that
That question of how rice hydrates and
dehydrates began a two-year process of
searching for the right natural materials
for the feminine pad, which included test-
ing with different leaves, such as banana
leaves, and forms of cotton.
Bates, Barron and the rest of the team—
which includes sophomore students, Sarai
Patterson, Ashlea Patterson and Ali Dibble—ultimately developed the SHERO
Pad, which is made up of four layers: An
outer layer of raw cotton similar to a tea
bag to repel liquid, a transfer layer of organic cotton to absorb the liquid and pull
it from the outer layer, the superabsorbent
layer made of agarose gel (a polymer from
brown algae) and a final layer made of a
corn-based material that keeps the moisture inside and prevents leakage.
While there are other similar sustainable feminine pads on the market today,
they either use a hydrogel that is not 100%
biodegradable or they use thicker layers of
natural cotton that are uncomfortable to
wear, Barron says.
Another advantage to the SHERO Pad
is that it can easily be manufactured in
smaller villages using locally sourced materials and without sophisticated tools,
just common presses and grinding stones,
While the team originally developed the
SHERO Pad for users in developing countries such as Guatemala, Bates and the students also will start selling the product in the
U.S. for environmentally conscious women.
A working prototype has been produced, and they have launched a startup
company based in Bountiful, UT. They
hope to have products in Guatemala and
on U.S. store shelves within a year.
as a major source for
modern nonwovens plants
and the components
to keep them producing.
These are the companies
Brückner Textile Technologies
Enka Tecnica GmbH
GmbH & Co. KG
Mahlo America, Inc.
GmbH & Co
Saurer Components GmbH
Schill & Seilacher GmbH
Tokuden Co., Ltd.
UNGRICHT Roller +
Zentes Unitex GmbH
For more information on
these companies and
their products visit: