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The Curious Case of the Missing Garbage Bin

January 27 2021 | Written by Madi Hanaka (She/Her)

Last week, I found myself in a bit of a predicament. I was hanging out at my boyfriend’s house one evening as I normally do, but unlike most nights, I was on my period. As an IUD owner, my cycle is no longer regular and I rarely have to stock up on menstrual products, let alone use them on a routine basis, but to my dismay, my period surprised me earlier that week. It was getting late and I realized that it had been a while since I last changed my tampon. Admittedly, I was slacking in the menstrual-care department. 

“Not a problem”, I thought. I knew I had packed a few extra tampons in my purse, so I snuck off to the bathroom - product in hand - and proceeded to swap it out for a new one. As I wrapped my used tampon in toilet paper, I casually checked over my shoulder to locate the bathroom garbage when I immediately made an anxiety-inducing discovery. Shit. There’s no garbage in here. 

I panicked for a second trying to figure out what my plan of action should be. “I could sneak into the kitchen and throw it out there?” No. With his brothers congregating by the fridge, I didn’t think I would be able to get out undetected. “I could flush it down the toilet?” Absolutely not. The only thing more embarrassing than being caught carrying around a bloody tampon is clogging your boyfriend’s toilet with a bloody tampon and watching as his family fishes it out. I decided on the only other solution I could think of, I would wrap my tampon in an extra heavy layer of toilet paper and bring it home with me in my purse like a souvenir.

Growing up in a house of almost exclusively women, I had never expected to be in this situation. Every house I have visited while menstruating has had a garbage can in every bathroom, making it easy to dispose of menstrual products. Fuelled by my curiosity after this experience, I reached out to a number of women I know to get their perspectives. Most of my friends explained that in these situations, they - reluctantly - bring their used menstrual products home with them. Others said that, although not ideal, they flush them down the toilet. One friend even told me that she exclusively brings her used products home with her in a designated bag to avoid any judgement, stress, or complications.

After the bathroom situation and hearing from friends about the various concerns that are considered while menstruating outside the comfort of their own bathrooms, it got me thinking: what can non-menstruators do to make their guests more comfortable? This week, with the help of our Instagram followers, the Marlow team highlighted a few ways that you improve the experiences of those who menstruate while visiting your home!

1. Have a garbage bin in your bathroom! 

As I’m sure you’ve noticed through the introduction of this week’s blog, having a garbage bin handy is extremely beneficial for menstruators. Making sure they have an easy way to dispose of their products relieves a lot of the stress that comes with menstruating away from home. If you want to go above and beyond, a garbage bin with a lid is even better!

2. Keeping extra products on-hand

If you have guests that frequent your home, stock up on a few menstrual products - pads and tampons of a few different sizes - to keep in your bathroom just in case someone is in need. Even if you don’t menstruate yourself, having a few pads or tampons under your sink or in a cabinet nearby can make a huge difference if someone needs one in a pinch. 

3. Be understanding and non-judgemental 

In the event that a guest is menstruating in your home, don’t make them feel ashamed or uncomfortable. If you see a discarded menstrual product in your garbage, don’t bring unneeded attention to it. Proceed as normal! 

As a general rule, be mindful of who may be visiting your home. Always remember that menstruation is not something that can be controlled, and you never know who might have their period. While to some, a garbage bin may seem irrelevant, know that by making one available to visitors you will make a number of people more comfortable. You might also save yourself a lot of money in plumbing repairs if your toilet becomes someone’s last resort for tampon disposal.