The History of the UK Sanitary Bin

  • Seminar
Portrait of Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvikis with tampons hanging out of the breast pocket of her blazer.
Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvikis, Jo Hanley. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

What you’ll do

This talk will examine the paradox of the UK sanitary-bin system, which promises a solution to the environmental issues associated with flushing menstrual products, as well as discreet waste management.

Yet the system relies heavily on trucks that drive and exchange bins, and on burning the waste in depots. Why did this system begin, and what can it tell us about gender, environmental history, and corporate interest in the menstrual cycle? The talk will look at the incinerators that led to calls for better menstrual-waste management in the 1940s, the growth of the bin-cleaning system in the 1960s, and the industry’s intersection with environmental and menstrual activism in the late twentieth century.

After the talk, you’ll have the opportunity to look at some key documents from the archives and ask questions.

About your speaker

Photograph of Dr Camilla Røstvik

Dr Camilla Røstvik

University of St Andrews researcher page

Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. She works on the visual culture and institutional power structures of menstruation from 1970s to the present day.


Just turn up

Need to know


We’ll be in the Viewing Room. It’s next to the Library entrance on level 2, which you can reach by taking the lift or the stairs.

Drop in at any time

Just turn up to this event. It's likely to have room for everyone.

Our event terms and conditions