14 July 2022

Think before you flush

We get the temptation… the toilet is right there and you’ve just wiped the kids’ faces with a disposable wipe… it’s just so easy to flush and be done with it. Or, the kids see anything fun and think ‘let’s see what happens when I put this thing in there and hit that button…’. But if only the flush was a magical vessel that obliterated rubbish into particles, never to be seen again. The unfortunate reality, though, is that rubbish does almost the exact opposite: it retains its form, in the pipes and into the sewerage system, causing havoc. So, while it might seem like ‘it’s sort of wrong, but maybe ok’, it’s actually doing a decent amount of damage, and not just to the environment. You may find that flushing non-flushable items can, quite literally, come up when you least expect (including having everything that’s gone in your toilet, come back out again…). So, here’s what can happen when you flush the un-flushable.

Only flush the three Ps

You shouldn’t be flushing anything that isn’t the three Ps: Poo, Pee and (toilet)Paper. Read more on the list of common non-flushable items that get flushed.

But, what we should all understand is why. Of course, it’s a hit to the environment and contributes to non-biodegradable waste. However, the issues you should be concerned with are the ones hitting closer to home…

What can happen when I flush non-flushable items down my toilet?

Sewage coming back up through the toilet

Yep. You read right. Non-flushable items can become stuck in your pipes and clog them. In time, water is unable to pass through and everything that is trying to get through will return to sender: that is, back up and through your toilet. We can all agree how deeply unpleasant that experience would be. It would also be extremely disruptive, expensive to fix, and extensive to clean. Raw sewage can be potentially harmful if it comes into contact with skin or a deep and thorough clean is not undertaken after an overflow.

Sewage overflow in the backyard

A sewage overflow in the yard happens when a pipe is blocked or obstructed in some way. This can happen from tree roots getting inside the pipe, or strangling it, old broken pipes and of course, blockages. Around 20% of sewage overflows are caused by the wrong items being flushed. It can cause permanent damage to the pipes, and be very expensive to clean-up and fix.

Gav Heaney - Owner of Enviromate Plumbing

We interviewed Gavin Heaney, Owner of Enviromate Plumbing here in the Hunter about the cost of flushing, the unflushable. He noted that “wet wipes do not break down like toilet paper does, this will cause blockages as the wet wipes move through the pipes and catch on tree roots or pipe displacements”. The true cost of this is that once this blockage happens it is extremely difficult and expensive to fix.

“These blockages will cause your sewer to surcharge, which can lead to internal flooding of your home with sewer.” Ain’t nobody got time for that!"

Learn more about what happens with non-flushable items in Newcastle!