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Mystery in McCormick: Why can’t we use the sanitary napkin disposal bins?

*Note: This article was researched and written by Catherine Rose and Eva Wozniak.

A lot has changed since the inception of COVID regulations on the Bloomsburg University campus over two years ago. Over the course of this semester alone, many mandates were lifted, including the mask mandate lift on March 1 and the April 4 lift of the mask requirement aboard university transportation. But one change was still present as of this afternoon and has left many scratching their heads.

There are a few lingering changes on campus from before COVID. One of them is water fountains and another, oddly enough, is the removal of sanitary napkin disposal bins in women’s restrooms.

Turning the water fountains off for COVID “made us rethink water fountains and how they’re dirty,” reflected BU Safety Manager Belinda Deleon.

She called the water fountains a “cesspool for germs.” That said, the touchless bottle fillers are open for use.

A sign is posted over a sanitary napkin disposal bin, which is taped shut, inside a women’s bathroom stall in the McCormick building. Credit: Eva Wozniak

As for the sanitary napkin disposal bins, the logic behind the change isn’t so clear.

“I’m not sure if [COVID] is the reason why they were taken out,” answered Deleon, a bit perplexed. “I know some of them, where they put them at, I believe in the Arts & Administration building, you have to almost put your face in the toilet to get them out.”

Due to this, facilities management is trying to adjust the location of the sanitary napkin disposal bins in this building. Likely, they will raise them a bit higher up so they are more easily accessible.

Philosophy professor Dr. Wendy Lee, told BUnow she saw the signs in the McCormick restrooms.

“Yuck. I can’t see how this has anything to do with COVID safety. The trash should be handled with gloves in any case. Plus, BU’s COVID protocol had very little to do with safety or honesty, and far more to do with money. Of COURSE, the relevant disposal containers should be in each and every stall,” stated Dr. Lee.

The signs in the women’s bathroom stalls, which block the use of what were the sanitary napkin disposal bins, were “in the process of being removed” during our interview with Deleon. It seemed neither Deleon nor Christa Barilla, Assistant Director of Facility Services, were aware of this issue before we questioned them on the topic around 1:30 p.m.

Deleon commented, “That was never a COVID thing.”

Students identifying with using the women’s restroom have been less than thrilled with the removal of the sanitary napkins disposal bins.

A used tampon sits at the top of an almost-overflowing trash can in a bathroom in McCormick earlier today. Credit: Eva Wozniak

“I feel gross…having to throw [feminine hygiene products] away in the main trash can by the door. They have [the bins] ‘closed’ because of COVID. Last time I checked proper disposal of period stuff doesn’t cause COVID. Also, there are machines that dispense stuff in case you forget but those don’t seem to work either,” lamented freshman BU student Gemma Cohen.

Cohen lives in Columbia Hall and said there are no designated disposal areas in her dorm bathrooms, either. Not even ones that are taped shut—there just aren’t any special bins at all.

Napkins and tampons should be available in every bathroom regardless of gender identity and should be free of charge, added Dr. Lee.

For the past two semesters, and possibly longer, users of the women’s restroom have had to discard their used feminine hygiene products in the main trash bin, often leaving them with no choice but to throw them on top of used paper towels and other trash.

As reported above, the BU Safety Manager said the bathroom signs are currently being taken down in McCormick.

As for why they were put up in the first place, the mystery remains.

The disposal area for used feminine hygiene products in the McCormick ‘new side’ bathrooms is in the main trash bins near the entrance/exit, far away from the stalls. Credit: Eva Wozniak