NATIONAL REPORT—Efforts to green practices in the lodging industry involve many cutting-edge initiatives. But simple steps can also be effective, especially when dealing with an issue that remains problematic. The disposal of feminine care products is a topic no one wants to talk about but the impact on the environment and the health and safety of guests and employees is significant.
Toilets are a convenient and quick way to get rid of personal care products. Out of sight, out of mind. But with each unnecessary flush, between 1 and 3.5 gallons of water is wasted. To be water efficient, according to EPA Water Sense, the toilet should never be used as a waste basket.
When tampons are flushed, they can swell to 10 times their size and do not break down like organic material. Tampons and personal care wipes are major culprits in clogging toilets and plumbing infrastructure. This can result in time consuming repairs and cleanups, and expensive bills.
Darrell Cole, a quality control manager for Mechanical Partners Inc. in Dallas, has seen the problems feminine care products cause in sewer and septic systems first hand. “Any solid matter put down a toilet has the potential to cause blockages,” he says. “With a variety of piping systems used throughout the United States, each has its own inherent attributes that result in blockages caused by feminine care products.”
Risk of Pump, Equipment Damage
Since the products do not disperse or disintegrate and maintain their structure throughout the sewer system, they can damage pumps and other waste treatment equipment. This contributes to raw sewage overflows into local waterways and is a source of pollution.
The commonly accepted method for disposal of feminine care products in public area restrooms, a metal or plastic hinged receptacle, poses a health risk to guests, employees and housekeeping staff. Research has shown that the No. 1 bacteria hot spot in a women’s restroom is the “sanitary” napkin disposal unit, and the risk of contact with potentially harmful blood borne pathogens is often overlooked.
“Even OSHA (which expects that feminine care products be discarded in waste containers that are lined) does not significantly address this issue, although it clearly is a blood and body fluid of concern and a common blood-contact opportunity,” says Lynn Kraft, a building services contractor and ICAN/ATEX associate.
The aesthetics of even the finest establishments can be ruined when receptacles become a breeding ground for odor-causing bacterial growth. Additionally there is nothing more offensive for patrons than having to view visibly dirty stall disposal units with unpleasant items.
Consider More Responsible Solutions
Creating greener environments while maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness can be accomplished by providing innovative solutions. Educating employees and guests about the importance and benefits of water conservation and hygienic practices can help change everyday behaviors.
One product hoteliers should consider is a new personal disposal bag system for feminine care products. It is making a critical difference in facilities across the country. The single-use biodegradable pink bags with a tie handle closure conceal the contents and are dispensed from refillable units that mount to the wall or partition in any size restroom.
Perry Shimanoff, a cleaning consultant for the past 31 years believes that safe, green alternatives to traditional disposal methods need to be adopted. “Although no one likes to discuss disposal of feminine products, with new replacement systems everyone benefits: customers, custodians, and the environment,” Shimanoff says.
Ann Germanow is the founder and CEO of the Scensible Source Company, a supplier of disposal solutions for feminine care products, including hotel amenity packs and specially designed liner bags.