Cllr Rachel Woods calls for sanitary bins in all public toilets

Thursday January 11 2018

Green Party councillor Rachel Woods is calling on Ards and North Down Borough Council council to install sanitary bins in all public toilets.

The Ards and North Down councillor said she put a Notice of Motion to the council earlier this week in the interests of health, equality and the environment, following reports that sanitary towels are being discarded on the floors of some public toilets.

She also pointed out that the 2016 Marine Litter Report by Keep NI Beautiful found the beach at Portavogie has the highest number of sanitary items per 100m in Northern Ireland, with 37.36 per 100m.

“This is nearly four times as much as the Hazelbank beach with nine sanitary items per 100m,” she said.

“According to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, millions of sanitary waste items are flushed down toilets every year. The wastewater drain which runs from the toilets is 10cm wide and is only designed for human waste and toilet roll.

“Larger items, such as sanitary items, can cause blockages and flooding of sewage which is unpleasant for ratepayers to encounter and costly and difficult to clear.”

Councillor Woods said provision of sanitary bins in North Down’s public toilets is inadequate.

“On social media there was a report of a sign in the Groomsport public toilets, apparently from the council, stating ‘Ladies, the floor is not the ideal place to leave sanitary towels, where children can see them and for cleaners to pick them up’,” she said.

“Whilst there is a number of things wrong with this sign and the reasons behind it, it is fair to say that if a bin were provided, the bin would be used.

“This particular toilet had a bin located outside the block of cubicles which would lead to anyone using the toilets having to carry used tampons or pads out into the main area.

“Personally I would not like to have to do this and I would challenge the council to find anyone who would.”

Councillor Woods said the issue was raised with council officers and she has been told that the council will only provide sanitary bins in facilities that have an attendant or caretaker present because they are subject to vandalism and misuse.

“I can understand why a contractor has expressed reluctance to deal with misused bins, but I do not believe that this is an adequate reason as to why sanitary bins should not be provided,” she said.

“There is clearly a wider issue here with regard to the disposal of sanitary ware which would need further clear educational initiatives as well as changes to packaging and marketing by international companies.

“However, providing a suitable bin at the point of need is a step I believe we as a Council should take, not only to reduce the amount of sanitary items disposed of in our sewers, drains and eventually in the seas and beaches, but also in the basic interests of all those people in and visiting our borough who require a bin when needed.”

Following an amendment at committee stage, councillors are now due to vote on a motion calling on the council to report on its sanitary bin provision and ways to promote and educate on the issue.

Angela Halpenny, Head of Environmental Regulation at NI Water, said: “NI Water supports any initiative that will keep sanitary products out of the sewers. These, along with wipes and other inappropriate items, are the cause of most blockages in the sewer system that cost NI Water £2.5 million last year.

“NI Water has invested millions over the last 10 years to bring the sewerage network and wastewater treatment works up to an acceptable standard. However, we cannot win this battle on our own – customer awareness and behaviour change is the only real way to address sewer misuse. The advice is to only flush the 3 p’s – pee, poo and paper; everything else needs to go in the bin. That includes the wipes that say flushable!

“By the year 2020, NI Water will have invested £3 billion into local water and wastewater infrastructure.”


 Linda Stewart

028 9052 1141

07594 391264