An estimated 137,000 girls miss a day of school in the UK every year due to a lack of access to sanitary products as the affordability of, and access to, feminine hygiene products continues to pose an issue for many girls and women in the UK. While Scotland became the first country in the world to make free sanitary products available to all pupils and students, there is still a way to go in ensuring girls and women across the UK have easy access to the basic sanitary products they need each month.
The good news is that several UK councils, businesses and brands are placing sanitary hygiene high on the agenda, and are developing plans and schemes to rollout during 2019 and beyond. Just last month, Bristol held the UK's first period poverty summit in a bid to be the first English city to try and tackle the problem. And in Devon, slimmers from WW (formerly Weight Watchers) across the north of the county have teamed up to combat period poverty by donating red boxes of sanitary ware for young people to access.
Whether a school, university, council facility or workplace, there is a duty of care towards visitors and employees to ensure appropriate washroom facilities are available for women. Here are the considerations any organisation should make when it comes to sanitary hygiene:
1. Providing complimentary products
Increasingly, organisations are viewing female sanitary products in the same light as toilet paper, soap and hand drying facilities - an essential to any washroom. Guided by the positive movement in Scotland, we’re starting to see councils across the UK ensure that local authority run facilities have complimentary tampons and sanitary towels in their female washrooms. A popular way to do this is by having baskets or containers in the communal area of a toilet, stocked with a supply of sanitary items.
Another option for providing easy access to complimentary sanitary products is via the installation of a dedicated dispenser within the toilet cubicle. Housed in a small, discrete, compact unit, usually next to the toilet roll holder, female washroom users who cannot afford them or who have been caught off guard are provided with easy and free access to sanitary products.
These units can then be re-stocked along with all other standard washroom provisions (such as soap and toilet paper), integrating sanitary products into a standard cycle of regular washroom servicing and maintenance.
2. Discrete and hygienic disposal
Providing all female washroom cubicles with sanitary disposal units is a fundamental consideration for the maintenance of a clean and pleasant washroom environment. Feminine hygiene units are available in a range of colours and styles, including manual, pedal, and automatic, and have been designed to sit conveniently beside the toilet.
Disposal units with automatic or no-touch capabilities help to make used sanitary product disposal quick and simple, ensuring users are encouraged to dispose of waste in the most ecological way possible, rather than simply flushing bulky and potentially harmful waste down the toilet. Feminine hygiene disposal units which contain an anti-microbial solution, insect repellent and a pleasant citrus fragrance to combat any bad odours, are also available.
3. Waste disposal service
Sanitary items are one of the main culprits of toilet blockages. Despite popular belief, tampons are not easily biodegradable and are one of the main causes of waste pipes becoming congested. But if no disposal units are available, washroom users may feel they have no choice but to flush sanitary products down the toilet.
Employing a feminine hygiene waste disposal service means businesses can dispose of sanitary waste in a secure, sensitive and environmentally friendly way. This is not only important for the wellbeing and hygiene of employees or other washroom users but helps to ensure waste is being disposed of in line with national health and safety legislation. This includes The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992), The Water Industries Act (1991), and the Environmental Protection Act (1990).
When washroom waste is regularly collected, treated and properly disposed of, businesses can rest-assured that a constantly high level of hygiene is maintained in washrooms.
Providing complimentary sanitary products takes care of one basic need that many girls and women have, and we are already seeing examples of schools, sports clubs and councils implementing this change. This paired with discreet disposal in the washroom and environmentally-friendly disposal beyond, will go a long way in providing women with a dignified and hygienic washroom experience.
Sian Walkling is marketing manager for Initial Washroom Hygiene