Flushing menstrual products such as a tampons or pads can wreak havoc on your facility’s plumbing. They can also expose restroom users and your custodial staff to bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and MRSA.
Hygienic solutions that motivate proper disposal can keep restroom users and cleaning staff safe and your pipes free of unflushable waste. Here’s why disposal choices matter.
Why Sanitary Napkin Disposal Needs an Upgrade
Menstrual product solutions for facilities have “been an overlooked category for close to 40 years,” explains Darren Zygis, sales director for Pure Concepts.
The manufacturer created the SaniPod, a disposal unit with a touch-free automatic lid option, in response to these issues. The ubiquitous metal receptacle found in most restroom stalls hasn’t changed much, he adds, stating that, “Women deserve something hygienic.”
There are three main problems with typical metal receptacles, Zygis says:
1. Women have to touch the units to use them.
This is both unpleasant and potentially creates routes for germ exposure: Women touch the receptacle to dispose of supplies, then touch stall door handles, paper towel dispensers and other surfaces on their way out, adds Shallan Ramsey, inventor of MaskIT, a disposal unit geared toward safeguarding women’s health.
2. Women are exposed to all the waste inside (hygienically and visually) when they open the disposal units.
3. Facilities and cleaning staff are also exposed when they empty the receptacles.
Bathroom requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) don’t directly address tampon and sanitary napkin disposal, but the agency requires regular cleaning and decontamination for other surfaces that are exposed to blood.
1910.1030, which covers OSHA’s standards for bloodborne pathogen exposure control, states “All bins, pails, cans and similar receptacles intended for reuse which have a reasonable likelihood for becoming contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials shall be inspected and decontaminated on a regularly scheduled basis and cleaned and decontaminated immediately or as soon as feasible upon visible contamination.”
OSHA also requires employers to provide personal protective equipment to employees who have occupational exposure to blood. That could include gowns, gloves, face shields or other protection, depending on the job.
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Yet many cleaning staffers are only provided with gloves for cleaning sanitary napkin receptacles, and a full disinfection to kill any bloodborne pathogens inside is uncommon.
Instead, cleaners typically remove the waxed paper bags from the metal receptacle, replace them with new ones and move on. This wouldn’t be the case in any other environment where exposure to blood is a regular occurrence.
Improve the situation in your restrooms by challenging the problem at its two sources: the disposal unit itself and the means by which women throw out menstrual products.
Replace the Receptacles
Ready to get rid of the old metal receptacles?
Swap them out for something that’s cleaner and easier to use. Part of the issue with the usual receptacles is that users have to touch the lid near the opening where they’ll throw away used sanitary products. Touch-free options or lids with handles, such as the SaniPod line by Pure Concepts, eliminate the need to touch the receptacle itself.
The paper bags used for disposal can also create a problem for cleaners. Often, tampons and pads are inserted in the receptacle, but miss the liner and fall between it and the wall of the unit. “Cleaners have to contact that directly,” Zygis says. “It’s very unhygienic.”
SaniPod eliminates that risk by lifting the liner to the top of the unit, which also lets users avoid visual exposure to waste. When facilities staff service the dispensers, they tear away the full liner from a continuous roll and dispose of it. Then they simply pull down the new bag and tie a knot.
[Related: Bathroom Hand Sanitizer Promotes Cleanliness]
Create Disposal Alternatives
You’re probably giving gloves to the people who service your bathrooms, but what about the people using them? MaskIT, a menstrual care disposal unit geared toward protecting women’s health, attacks the receptacle hygiene problem from a different angle—the way users get rid of products before they get to the receptacle.
The MaskIT unit dispenses two different sizes of pouches—one for tampons, one for pads—that allow women to cover their hands when removing their menstrual care product, then invert the pouch to cover the product, seal it and toss it into the metal receptacle.
“Because of the glove-like protection, we’re able to reduce potential blood-borne pathogen exposure risk at all touchpoints in the restrooms,” Ramsey says. “Blood is sealed and contained before going into the receptacle. That keeps receptacles clean.”
The dispensers come with easy-to-understand instructions on how to use and seal the pouches. The goal is to promote healthy practices in the restroom while discouraging flushing of menstrual products.
“It’s a proactive way for facilities to protect the health of everyone using their restroom and their facilities staff,” Ramsey says. “The bonus is reduction in toilet paper usage and plumbing issues.”
*This article was originally posted on June 25, 2019, written by Sarah Kloepple as BOMA 2019 coverage and updated on August 1, 2019 by Janelle Penny.
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