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Dear Zoomlion, What should we do with our pads?

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Let me begin by saying, I HATE periods. Not the punctuation mark, I mean the monthly Aunt Flo, Crimson Tide, Visitor, Bisquit…I am referring to menstruation, which plagues girls and women between the ages of 9 and 60 (depending on whenever menarche and menopause strike). On account of my having a particularly heavy flow and spending years with severe cramping, periods have NEVER been merely an inconvenience for me. The kicker? I am not alone.

The Bible tells us, that menstruating women were not permitted to perform any household chores, wives could not cook for their husbands, and indeed, sex was out of the question. I may be wrong, but all women had in days of old, were under cloths/rags, which would be washed, dried and reused. Mary Kenner, in the 1950s invented a belt for sanitary napkins. This belt would hold the cloths and rags women used during their menses, and helped prevent leaks. I make a point of mentioning Ms Kenner because, her invention was revolutionary and also, she was an African American. History is not kind to women inventors and revolutionaries, let alone those who are melanin coated.

The Sanitary belt.
Credit: http://www.helloflow.org

At some point in history, women were saved the trouble of washing sanitary napkins, much like with diapers, with the advent of disposable napkins, which, thankfully worked perfectly with the sanitary belt which Mary Kenner had updated to include a moisture-proof linen pocket. I won’t bore you further with more period history but over the years, we ended up with adhesive pads, tampons, period panties, and the menstrual cup. All of these products make periods more bearable for women but what should be noted is that the most common product used by women in managing their monthly flow, is the sanitary pad. And the way of disposing it? Securely folded and stuffed in the individual plastic wrappers they come in, and dumped in a bathroom waste bin. Where does the trash from the bathroom bin go? Into whatever larger receptacle awaits outside, and into the garbage truck that comes to collect trash every week.

At least that’s how it’s been done in my house for years, and in every other house I’ve visited. In my secondary school, we had a large pit in the girls’ block that we would dump our bathroom waste into and once a week, we would set the waste on fire. The con? Vultures and crows often got into the pit before incineration day and we would return to the block on many an afternoon to find the pads scattered about the yard. We hate the sight of our own clotted blood even when it’s fresh in our pads, imagine the disgust on our faces when forced to pick up stale, and now shredded napkins belonging to Lord knows whom.

No, the easiest thing to do, and unless I am mistaken, what’s done universally, is to wrap them tight, drop in a preferably lined bin, and send off to a disposal site.

Do not, please DO NOT flush your tampons and pads down the toilet. If you’re lucky enough to not have it clog your toilet, it sure as heck will block the chambers leading to your septic tank and God save you, and your plumber from the stinky and frankly unsanitary job of dislodging all that poop.

What has my proverbial panties in a bunch now though? Well a doctor buddy of mine, Dr Kofi Effah shared an article from myjoyonline with me. Full disclosure, I used to work with myjoyonline, which is why I was surprised at the Headline, “Zoomlion hates it when you drop used sanitary pads into waste bins“. A look at the byline showed the story was originally posted on Adomonline, a sister media channel. However, there’s two things I want to make note of from the article.

First of all, that “The Central Regional Manager of waste management company, Zoomlion, Samuel Edu, is cautioning the public to stop the disposal of used sanitary pads into Zoomlion waste bins in both residential and public places.” This is because they pose a health risk to sanitation workers. To be fair, he also “cautioned residents of Assin Breku to desist from disposal of faeces, used pad and other waste materials which are likely to put the health of Zoomlion workers in risk”.

I am all for warning people not to dispose of faeces in waste bins. That’s awesome advice, necessary even, considering that even in 2018, majority of Ghanaian homes, some even within Accra, do NOT have toilets. And have you tried using a public toilet? Even the KVIPs? where you are charged to not only use the loo, but have to pay for toilet paper at the entrance? There’s always that one person holding the toilet paper, who counts the squares of paper they hand to you. I can’t say that I can blame people, usually in our market areas who opt to just poop into plastic bags and toss em.

What concerns me is, the fact that sanitary pads have been included in this mix. Was the Regional Manager misquoted? Was he misinformed? Are sanitary pads truly not supposed to be dumped into waste bins?

Which brings me to observation number two, which Dr Effah also noted.

The article does not state what women are supposed to DO with the used pads. If Mr Edu gave an alternative, it certainly was not communicated in the article and this leaves me baffled.

I have never heard of Western Countries warning their women to avoid putting pads in waste bins, and I cannot fathom any other method of disposal besides incineration. With that being said, I have come up with two options since Zoomlion seems to be so deeply concerned for their workers’ health; one of which seems more pragmatic, as it will disrupt our lives less:

  1. Every household build an incinerator and dump used pads in it for burning.
    Pro: Zoomlion workers do not have to bring their gloved hands into contact with them
    Con: Extra expense to residences and businesses, especially considering that majority of homes do NOT even have the means to install flushing toilets and septic tanks let alone an incinerator.
  2. Zoomlion provide the households they serve with paper-lined “bio waste” bins which will be collected and transported straight to a central disposal facility where they would be incinerated.
    Pro: Zoomlion workers do not have to bring their gloved hands into contact with them
    Con: Zoomlion bears the cost of providing the paper-lined bins, as well as collection, transportation, and incineration of the waste.

An even bigger question is, why does Zoomlion even have its workers touching the refuse in the first place? If waste is going into bins, and trash collection is regular, one would imagine it’s simply a case of the bin being lifted either manually, or mechanically, into a garbage truck, driven to a landfill, and dumped. So perhaps, instead of your regional manager telling women to stop placing their used sanitary napkins into the bin, he should ensure that the bins are emptied regularly, thus reducing the heaping of refuse which would force workers to have to physically scoop waste into the garbage trucks.

Otherwise, I cannot fathom why such an unconscionable statement should be made, let alone printed with such a questionable headline, in what is a major news publication.

 

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