Sanitary bins in public toilets 'should be higher priority'

By Tori Watson

image captionSome 160 of Northern Ireland's 258 council-run public toilets are installed with sanitary bins

Sanitary bins in public toilets should be a higher priority for councils, according to a charity which provides hygiene products for homeless women.

It comes after it was revealed that Newry, Mourne and Down Council has not installed sanitary bins in any of its 31 public toilets.

The council said there was "no statutory obligation" for it to do so.

However, all other councils in Northern Ireland have some level of provision.

Taboo issue?

Katrina McDonnell from Homeless Period Belfast said the lack of facilities suggested there needed to be more discussion about the issue.

"It's clearly not being treated as a priority," she said.

"Periods are a taboo issue and people often forget about how it impacts women.

"Some people just don't think about it being an issue, but it is."

She added: "The problem is not having them installed means women may try and flush the items down the toilet which might cause the toilet to block - or they may be forced to leave it in the toilet area which is unhygienic, and could lead to more complaints about cleanliness from members of the public."

Ultimately, she said, it could cost Newry, Mourne and Down council more in the long-run.

'Should be reviewed'

Northern Ireland's 11 councils provide a total of 258 public toilets, according to figures obtained by BBC News NI.

Of these, 160 have sanitary bins installed.

With 31 public toilets, Newry Mourne and Down ranks as the council with the third highest number of public toilets.

UUP Councillor for the area, Jill Macauley, said she had not been aware of the lack of sanitary bins in the area.

"I'm surprised, but I would encourage the council to install sanitary bins in busier areas with greater footfall," she told BBC News NI.

Sinn Féin councillor Willie Clarke said the council is reviewing its public toilet facilities to make them more accessible.

"It's an issue that should be higher on the agenda, and should be included in the review," said Mr Clarke.

image copyrightGetty Images

Raymond Martin from the British Toilet Association said councils were not required by law to provide public toilets, let alone sanitary bins.

"But while they are not legally bound to provide the service, they are morally obliged for tourists, visitors and shoppers," he said.

"It boils down to economics - councils are facing big budget cuts and they have to make the books balance and sanitary bin provision can be costly."

'Security risk'

Councils including Belfast City, Ards and North Down, and Causeway Coast and Glens provide sanitary bins in each of their public toilet facilities.

However, other councils have varying degrees of provision:

  • Fermanagh and Omagh : 31/45
  • Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon : 16/26
  • Antrim and Newtownabbey : 7/13

Fermanagh and Omagh Council told BBC News NI that some of its toilet blocks were older facilities where bins were not installed as they were deemed a security risk during the Troubles.

Mid Ulster said toilets with facilities installed are in "town centres where there is greater footfall and high levels of use".

Mid and East Antrim said sanitary bins were only installed in female toilets as they were not needed in male toilets.

Derry and Strabane Council told BBC News NI it was "implementing a Community Toilet Scheme" with local businesses to give the public greater access.

Meanwhile, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, and Lisburn and Castlereagh Council said they would soon have sanitary bins fitted in all public toilets.

Related Topics

More on this story