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

14 July 2015

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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