21st Century people - and toilet developers - need to mention menstruation.
“Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It’s probably not meant to, as it’s serious. May 28th was nominated by the NGO WASH United very recently, in 2014, as a day for people to “break the silence and build awareness that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.”
Period Poverty is a worldwide problem with tragic consequences—girls missing school, which not only thwarts hopes and dreams, but exacerbates global inequality. Even more important than hygiene is social acceptance—as expressed powerfully by Aranya Johar’s video for WASH United. While it’s probably fair to call menstruation a monthly inconvenience, it’s time to drop the stigma. May 28th is a day to be proud of this part of our biology and say thanks to those who do this species-preserving job every 28 days.
When we do talk about hygiene, we are often talking about products that help manage this monthly reality—which, due to stigma aforementioned, are often called “unmentionables.” To give them some mention: there are innovative technologies that are changing menstruation management, and great initiatives that make menstrual management affordable and accessible. But most such products are fast-moving consumer goods made of natural and synthetic materials, i.e., tampons and pads. And in the UK at least, a whole lot of these disposals are flushed down toilets.
As we rethink toilets for the 21st Century, we have the opportunity to better manage menstrual hygiene—and most certainly, designers and developers need to start by talking about this reality. Loowatt’s technology manages menstrual hygiene waste by processing all toilet waste—waterless flush packaging and whatever is flushed down—in a machine that shreds everything, and screens out larger objects for composting or other types of treatment.
In an ideal future we might all find ways of managing our personal hygiene without producing waste—but in the case of menstrual hygiene, the first step is to mention the unmentionables.