When Do Sanitary Bins Become a Social Issue

Despite having only been introduced in the last few decades, sanitary bins have become an essential and necessary part of public washrooms. They are so important, in fact, that special sanitary bin legislation was introduced specifically to ensure that people who menstruate have a safe and clean space to dispose of their sanitary waste. 

Practical issues aside, however, it is important to remember that sanitary bins are just as much of a social responsibility as they are a practical consideration for a functioning public washroom. For a lot of people, the presence of proper sanitary bins and waste disposal facilities can be a much deeper issue – one of equality and reflecting important social issues. 

Sanitary bins and period poverty

For years now, period poverty has been in the news as one of the most important health issues facing people living in poverty. This is an issue that the UK has specifically highlighted as a problem in schools where young people who cannot afford sanitary products are either forced to use unhygienic alternatives such as socks, or simply miss school altogether. When one considers that an average period can last between 3-7 days, missing that many days of education per month is tragic for those students and could significantly impact their future. 

With the economic effects of the pandemic still being felt to this day, it’s no wonder that period poverty has become an even greater concern than ever before. Lockdowns, reduced pay and even product shortages have left some people with no access to the products that they need. 

However, having access to free period products is just the first step, albeit a vital one. Not having a safe and clean environment in which to dispose of said products in school can also encourage young people to stay at home during their periods to avoid embarrassment in disposing of their sanitary products. Additionally, the presence of sanitary bins in schools reinforces the idea visually that providing students with the tools they need to manage their periods is a responsibility, and not a choice.

Sanitary bins and trans rights

There is currently no legislation in the UK that prohibits people from using whichever public washroom they feel makes them most comfortable, safe and that best matches their gender identity. It may seem unusual to some to see a sanitary bin in a men’s washroom, but it is an absolutely necessary facility for trans people all over the country. And yet, it is something that is overlooked by facilities managers even to this day.

Musician Freddie Lewis discusses his experiences as a trans man who was forced to use disposable sandwich bags during his period thanks to a lack of sanitary facilities. Trans people should not be concerned about their ability to access the facilities they need without being forced to enter a public bathroom that does not match their gender identity. For trans men like Freddie, having a period is something that is still an occasional occurrence, even when taking gender affirming hormones. And this of course does not even take into account the many many trans people who do not have access to hormone therapy or choose, for their own personal reasons, not to take it. 

By not including these vital facilities in men’s washrooms, thousands of trans people are being denied the dignity that they deserve and are forced to deal with their menstrual cycles in shame, taboo, and often unsanitary ways.

Sanitary bins and equality in the workplace

One of the most important places for adults to have access to sanitary bins is in the workplace. Menstrual taboos are still so prevalent in these mostly male-dominated environments, that the term “period friendly workplace” has become necessary to show a more progressive outlook. 

However, while menstrual leave or self-care areas designed to help people who menstruate relax during these times are still fairly progressive, sanitary bins certainly should not be. And yet, some small businesses still fail to provide their staff with even these most basic sanitary needs even though they are technically a legal requirement.

We do not need to reach into ancient history to see what the effects are when no sanitary bins are provided in the workplace. Just fifty years ago, office workers would often have to band together financially to fund their own containers to dispose of sanitary waste and then do so as discreetly as possible. Alternatively, waste was often incinerated or stuffed down the toilet, creating an even bigger problem.

Without the adequate facilities in place, the workplace suffers the same fate as schools. Employees are more likely to call in sick and even if they don’t, the stress about whether or not they will be able to dispose of their sanitary waste cleanly and discreetly should not be an issue in the first place. This puts menstruating employees at a clear disadvantage to those who do not and with inequality still an issue in the workplace as it is, this should be the bare minimum that is required of employers to provide for their staff. 


Facilities management may not seem like something that is linked to social issues or issues surrounding equality, but it is always linked to so many other things such as inequality, dignity and more. Menstruation should never put anyone at a disadvantage for any reason, whether it be emotional, financial or in regards to their health. Recognising why sanitary bins are so much more than a business obligation and how they can change people’s day to day lives is the first step to tackling these underlying issues. 


VR San-Co work with clients across Kent, Sussex and London providing Washroom Services and Sanitary Care Solutions.

We provided many services including feminine hygiene, commercial air freshenerscommercial soap dispensersmedical waste binssanitary bins, and more.

Please check out our other services pages to find out more about the services we offer and contact us for more details.


26 Arkley Road, Herne Bay
Kent. CT6 5SL