Tackling The Taboo And Protecting The Environment

Men use sanitary items too but unfortunately there’s little awareness or concern about how they should responsibly dispose of their used items.

Sanitary bins in public female bathrooms have been a mainstay of the washroom services industry since the 1980s and a legal requirement since the 1991 Water Industries Act and the 1992 Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulation. But as yet, there’s no legislation to determine how male sanitary waste should be disposed of. As the world becomes more eco-aware, and largescale campaigns exist to help reduce the devastating impact of throwing away single-use plastics, there’s a focus on the disposal of sanitary products that aren’t related to menstruation. Wet wipes, incontinence pads and adult nappies are all items that cause serious damage to the environment – and men use these too!

Fatberg Crisis

When there’s no obvious bin or container placed inside a toilet cubicle for the purpose of sanitary item disposal, men and women have two options to choose from. They can either take their dirty items with them, carrying them outside of the cubicle until they find another bin to place them in, or they can flush them. The problem with carrying their used sanitary items is that this can assist in the spread of bacteria originating from the genitals or rectum, which could then be deposited on the cubicle door handle, across the bathroom floor and against the lid or sides of the bin that it is placed in, which is often not an official sanitary waste container.

In terms of human behaviour, most people are not willing to suffer the humiliation of anyone seeing them holding their used sanitary products. So, perhaps somewhat understandably, many choose instead to flush their used items down the toilet instead. The significant problem with this latter choice is that wet wipes, pads and nappies are not designed to be broken down in our sewage system and therefore contribute towards the creation of enormous fatbergs and blockages which cost UK consumers upwards of £12 million per year to deal with.

Taking Action

In a recent committee meeting conducted by the Greater London Assembly (GLA), the body analysed the way in which we typically dispose of our waste and the impact of this on the environment. Whilst there’s still considerable work to be done in educating all people about the damage of flushing waste down the toilet, it’s acknowledged that the lack of legislation surrounding men’s washroom facilities is a problem. Put simply, men who use sanitary items such as incontinence pads are somewhat forced to flush them due to a lack of viable alternative. The GLA is urging public and private sector organisations to supply men with sanitary bins in shared bathroom facilities. As an example, Germany has already updated their own legislation in recent years so that workplaces must supply at least one lidded bin in each male bathroom.

Durham Cricket Club has boldly chosen to be the first sports venue in the UK to address the stigma of bladder weakness by installing male sanitary bins in the Riverside Ground for the 2019 season. Chief executive Tim Bostock explains “We want to make sure men who experience this issue can feel comfortable enough to continue to come along and support their local team, without worrying about how they dispose of an incontinence product if they need to change throughout the day’s events.”

The introduction of male sanitary bins into public restrooms is undoubtedly a positive move, both for the environment and for social awareness of a medical problem. Hopefully many other venues and organisations will begin to follow suit as knowledge of this situation increases.

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