Can’t flush this: 5 things you need to stop flushing down your toilet right now

When you flush things down the toilet – they don’t just disappear. Here are 5 things we need to stop flushing down the toilet right now for our oceans.

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In Australia, what we send down our kitchen, laundry, and bathroom drains – and everything we flush down the toilet – ends up in the sewerage system. And it doesn’t end there – once sewage is treated, it’s reused or returned to our creeks, rivers and oceans.

Toilets are for your waste – not your rubbish. Help ensure our waterways are kept junk-free and our treatment process runs smoothly by putting these five items in the bin instead of your toilet.

1. Wet wipes

Flushing wet wipes – even if they’re called ‘flushable’ – is a bad idea for our pipes and wastewater system. According to Sydney Water, 500 tonnes of wet wipes products are removed from Sydney’s sewers each year!

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Image by Sydney Water via their Facebook page

Sydney Water also report that 75% of sewer blockages involve wet wipes. It’s clear that flushing wet wipes is bad news for everyone involved – so try reusable face wipes, or dispose of wet wipes responsibly.

You can find out more about this 500 tonne problem from the Sydney Water website here. And don’t forget: there are reusable alternatives to disposable wipes to lessen your impact on the planet and save yourself wondering how to get rid of your wet wipes.


Wet wipes in a Toongabbie creek after an overflow via Sydney Water

2. Cotton buds and pads

You might be able to rip them apart, but even little cotton buds and pads don’t decompose in the sewage system. They can accumulate to clog the pipes on your end, or eventually gather in the bends of pipes to cause bigger blockages.

Just like disposable wipes, you can also find washable pads that can be used more than once.

3. Sanitary products

Made from a combination of ingredients including plastic and cotton, pads and tampons are not designed to be flushed. They can also clog up the pipes in your home or accumulate to block bigger pipes later on.

There are lots of sustainable alternatives to single-use sanitary products – like reusable pads and cups – to stop your pads and tampons being flushed or sent to landfill.

4. Condoms

Condoms are a massive problem for the world’s sewers. In London, one sewage worker told The Guardian: “I’ve been down the sewers in central London and seen what appear to be fish on the surface. They’re actually condoms filled with air, bobbing around. It is pretty grim.”

No one really knows how long it takes for a condom to biodegrade. But one thing is clear – they don’t break down in water so you should not flush them down the toilet.

5. Your pet fish

In June 2015, a province in Canada reported goldfish “the size of dinner plates” swimming, reproducing, and growing in size in storm water ponds. While this was more likely due to residents releasing the fish in nature than flushing them down the toilet – it’s probably a good idea to keep pets out of our sewage system and waterways.

What you can do

These tips might seem obvious to you – but all these items still end up being flushed in toilets in Australia and around the world every year. In Sydney alone, one in four people flush wet wipes, causing 75% of sewer blockages and costing $8 million every year.

Make sure none of your friends and family make these mistakes by sharing this blog using the tools to the left.

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    I just saw an article on Facebook where the Netherlands are using plastic to reline their roads. We have thousands of miles of road and thousands of tonnes of plastic. How could we get this technology in Australia. would. Peter Garrett be interested in researching the potential for Australian business. Also there in a convention in Murwillumbah on the 1st weekend of October this year. for innovative entrepreneurs and visionaries to come together to find solutions to our problems called Infinite Solutions.Maybe Greenpeace should have a presence there..Keep up the great work Greenpeace.

    • Boops

      Hahaha *visions of plastic roads, melting in Summer*

  • Ray1969

    down here in southeast UK,we have a incinerator for stuff like that ,and the released energy goes to making electricity .

  • nav

    Indian way of clean our bottoms with water is the best way. Most hygienic and saves paper.

  • indevoc

    The other thing to not flush down loos is pharmaceutical drugs. We pee and poo the residues of the ones we take out as it is, and that is already having a devastating effect on marine life. Flushing unfinished or unwanted raw drugs down the loo just adds insult to injury.

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  • Great article! It’s unbelievable how much of this stuff we find during beach cleanups. It’s not commonly known that wet wipes are actually made of plastic, so it’s great to see coverage of this. Most of these things we probably need to stop using altogether…

  • Jordan

    Awesome article i thought 1-4 where common sense but WOW! 1 in 4 ppl flush wet wipes thats just sad.

    • Annette Palmer


  • avargas2001

    I have a great idea, lets boycott wipes. Does maple leafs biodegrade? when I go bush waking I use leafs, I guess big city people can’t use bricks. I even use pine needles branches to wash utensils, I wonder what happened to the sponge plant and why we don’t use the sponge plant to develop biodegradable wipes, if wipes are made of paper and paper comes from trees and trees biodegrade shouldn’t the wipe also biodegrade ??? some things don’t add up her so I am not buying them, wipes is for lazy people. with these in mind people who suffer weight problems should think twice before using them. every time you walk to a sink to wash your hands you are effectively filtering your blood and adding oxygen to it. with all the accumulation of toxins from pesticides in your food supply if we don’t change our way of thinking we will be in fact wiped of the face of the hearth. one sheep at a time, now before you shoot the messenger by calling me sensationalist, why don’t we think back to tobacco went from being a curative leaf to causing people lung cancer. what was that we added to prolong shelve life ??? o yes nicotine and tar.

  • Doreen Maloney-Coles

    Many wet wipes have Propylene Glycol a degreaser they use to clean garage floors or Sodium Laurel Sulphate a chemical that foams in their ingredients. Why would you even want to use them, and what about baby wipes, same chemicals in them and baby genitals are wiped with them. No wonder we have so much cancer about? Marine life in New York is neither male or female now, because of all the birth control chemicals that have been flushed down the loo. Wake up and smell the roses everyone. Look after the body that carriers your soul around for you, and stay well clear of all chemicals. Modere has researched and removed over 3000 potential ingredients in their products. They have chemical and toxin FREE products that you can purchase online for personal use and household use.

  • Annette Palmer

    Oh do COME ON – isn’t that all just BASIC COMMON SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Faylinn Byrne

    My work just had to shut down the bathrooms for a few days until the plumbers could fix the toilets from clogging. Supposedly, a lot of the women had been flushing their tampons down the toilets and that was clogging the pipes. Are there sanitary products that are made so that they can be flushable and not clog pipes?

  • This story is being repeated all over the world and will continue because people keep using Wet Wipes instead of Toilet Paper for a very good reason = they do a better job. But there is an alternative that does an even better job and that’s the Hand Bidet Sprayer. With these you can wash with water right at the toilet and they’re not expensive and certainly allot less than the expensive clogs being caused by the wipes!