The Importance of Men’s Sanitary Bins

Leaky taps – for men there is nothing worse than hearing that dreaded phrase, knowing that huge expense may be just around the corner. But who would have thought that this term could be linked so intrinsically to a serious or underlying health condition?

1 in 8 men in the United Kingdom will get prostate cancer in their lifetime, even more damning is that it affects 1 in every 4 black men. But it isn’t just prostate cancer which can lead to ‘leaky taps,’ an enlarged prostate amongst other things can lead to this too. So at this point what can be done for men to ‘tackle’ this serious health issue?

We know now that there are campaigns to tackle period poverty, but what campaigns are in place for men to support men who may have issues with their flow or overflow? We visited Cllr Gina Placey and Western Promenade in Brightlingsea which is overseen by Tendring District Council to look at an exciting initiative that is being trialled to focus in on the ‘mandemic’.

The toilets overlooking the Brightlingsea promenade.

Gina voiced, “This is a hidden problem which is much wider than you may think; a third of men aged over-65 experience urinary incontinence and 1 in 20 men aged over-60 live with bowel incontinence.”

But what is the initiative exactly? It is simply focused around having sanitary bins within men’s toilets, a space within a cubicle just in case it’s required.

Gina explains, “These bins are something which can quickly and easily improve the lives of the many men who, for a variety of reasons, may have issues with incontinence and need to change and dispose of pads. One of Tendring District Council’s priorities is working with partners to improve the quality of life, this is one small thing that could make a big difference to a lot of people.”

Our CEO, Samantha Glover, who is an advocate for this initiative expressed, “I think it’s fantastic that Tendring District Council has invested in this programme. At Healthwatch Essex, we are hearing from more and more men who have incontinence issues, and the lack of support and infrastructure is having a real impact on their lives.

With no facilities to dispose of sanitary products, men are flushing these down the toilet, leading to blockages or simply not going out. This can have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing and lead to isolation and loneliness. We would like to see sanitary bins in all-male toilets and give men the opportunity and support to discuss these issues without fear or embarrassment.”

What these quotes do highlight is that this is an ever-growing problem, the initiative currently being piloted does give men a platform to be able to dispose, offload and limit those embarrassing moments with leaky taps. One of the calls for action is from larger employers, imagine having to deliver a presentation or meet a deadline but your biggest fear is whether you will be able to manage your flow or where am I going to put my used pad once I’ve finished with it?

We spoke with Errol McKellar MBE, a prostate cancer survivor, who echoed Samantha’s comments saying, “It’s very important for men to be able to put the disposable pads and nappies into a bin in the toilets instead of what they are currently doing, which is putting them down the toilets. This is how men are dealing with the issue which is incontinence”.

One of the men’s sanitary bins available in Essex.

The reality amongst all of this? Do men really talk about incontinence issues? We spoke with Neil Jones, the Vice Chair of our Trustees, about his experiences and thoughts. “The sheer volume of men affected by incontinence issues, for a variety of reasons, is an issue that is rarely talked about, and yet the addition of these bins to male toilets is such a simple and easy step to make.

No individual should have to suffer and worry about how they will change and dispose of incontinence products when out and about in their daily lives, so it is fantastic to see that Tendring District Council are pioneering this change in Essex. I hope to see the same rolled out across the county in the near future!”

What is important is that there is continuity with initiatives like this one discussed, incontinence products for men can’t be stowed in a handbag or rolled up and put in a pocket until you find a suitable bin. These products can come in a variety of forms and lets be honest, the thought to some men of carrying around a disposable nappy in public or at work could cause much the embarrassment and shame.

This initiative is so important because it’s all about giving men some hope that albeit they may have a potential lifelong health concern, they can still go out to popular places, spend time with their family, attend work and succeed knowing that locally they can discreetly freshen up without fear of questioning or embarrassment.

With the data illustrating that these issues are beginning to affect people at a younger age, raising awareness that there are disposal opportunities, might just enhance a man’s life along the way by just offering a little reassurance that their trip out will be okay. Furthermore, from a financial and sustainability viewpoint, how much could this initiative save our local water companies in time, resources and funds? How often do we also hear about these products washing up in our seas?

Let’s hope that this great piece of work from Tendring District Council can remain in place and become the new norm within men’s toilets across Essex. Below is our Engagement Officer, Jason Baker, speaking about the initiative.