What can we flush down the toilet?
We probably don’t give much thought to what happens once our waste is flushed out of our lives, and for some, it may come as a surprise to know that the accumulation of non-biodegradable wipes, paper towels and cooking grease is clogging up our waste-water systems. The combination of these materials forms a hard blockage known as a ‘fatberg’ and it’s destroying our environment.
Fatbergs can amass enormous amounts of non-flushable materials and weigh hundreds of kilos! When sewer pipes become blocked, the sewage can overflow and contaminate local waterways, including drinking water sources and habitats for aquatic species.
A huge contributor to this problem has been the rise in popularity of “flushable” wet wipes entering the market.
“Just because something is flushable doesn’t mean it breaks down” and unfortunately, “some products that claim to be flushable are not” according to Sydney Waters.
Once built up, these blockages need to be removed, and since most of the materials are non-biodegradable, they also contribute to the vast amounts of waste piling up in landfill, releasing toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases, creating air pollution.
“hundreds of tonnes of unwanted bathroom products and kitchen waste are removed from waterways and our wastewater system each year”. – Sydney Water
Clean-up requires time, money, and resources which could be better spent maintaining our waste-water systems so that they run more efficiently and sustainably. The good news is, by practising “Conscious Flushing”, we can be part of the solution.
Grease and oils easily back up pipes and can still cause blockage even when it is mixed with soap or diluted with water. When oil and grease hit the cool water in your wastewater pipes, they harden. To avoid putting grease down the drain, wipe dishes with a paper towel before washing up and excess grease should be disposed of in a bin after it has dried and hardened.
Generally, it’s wise to put anything other than toilet paper, into the waste bin rather than in the toilet, this includes wet wipes and paper towels. People should approach labels with scepticism and put products even marketed as “flushable” into the garbage to prevent blockages. Other objects that should never be flushed are sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, and cotton swabs (this seems like common sense however you might be surprised to hear that a huge number of cotton swabs wash up on our beaches!). There are also amazing zero-waste alternatives out there which are well worth exploring and reduce the waste created by these everyday items.
Remember, Save the toilet for Pee, Poo and (toilet) Paper only!
(Info provided by Sydney Water)