For the most part, we all try to do the right thing in life, and that includes not flushing items down the toilet that shouldn’t be flushed. But, sometimes despite our best efforts and intentions, we can find ourselves flushing the non-flushables without realising they are a big no-go for the bowl. And, product marketing and names aren’t helping us: even items that claim to be ‘flushable’ are in fact some of the biggest culprits for clogging pipes and causing havoc to our wastewater system. So, we thought we’d share the most common flushed items that seem harmless, but are actually not ideal to respect the throne.
Only flush the three P’s
Broadly, you shouldn’t be flushing anything that isn’t the three Ps: Poo, pee and (toilet) Paper. However, there are some items that are common flushed culprits, leading to blockages and overflows…
Yep, even though it’s in the name, these are one of the most flushed non-flushable items found in sewers. Wipes that are marketed as ‘flushable’ make up about 75% of all wipe-related blockages in Australia, and take over $8 million annually to remove the 500,000kg of wipes. They also contribute to fatbergs, which are a congealed mass of grease, fats and other flushed items that appear in the wastewater system.
In May, Standards Australia released a new standard for flushable products. While it’s voluntary for manufacturers, it provides clear criteria for products that can be flushed and there are requirements for clearer labelling so people know whether it’s safe for flushing. While you should only ever flush the three Ps, you will soon be able to look out for a flushable symbol. If there is no symbol on the packet, then don’t flush it, bin it!
This includes baby wipes, makeup wipes and anti-bacterial wipes. Just like the so-called flushable variety, other wipes do not degrade and can build up in your pipes even if you think it’s harmless to flush one or two a day.
Cotton buds and balls
Cotton buds are the biggest non-flushable item flushed down the toilet.. These seemingly innocuous items add up and create big problems throughout the sewer and wastewater process. Instead, keep a small bathroom bin by the basin, and drop your cotton buds and cotton wool balls in there.
Other major culprits:
All accumulating in your pipes and in a fatberg, here are some other commonly flushed items that are causing problems in our wastewater system.
● Paper towels
● Small toys and other plastic items
● Sanitary products
Plastic toys such as Lego are unlikely to be deliberately flushed by an adult, but their inclusion means it’s a good opportunity to teach the kids that science experiments are wonderful… they just don’t need to include flushing items down the toilet to see what happens.
Think about making the change
Of course, not flushing these items down your toilet is your best bet that they will not clog or burst your pipes, or lead to overflows. However, if you find that you do flush these items, it might be time to consider if there is a more environmentally (and cost) friendly alternative, that would eliminate you needing to throw it away at all.
Some suggestions could be:
● Muslin cloths or washable face cleansers instead of makeup remover wipes
● Anti-bacterial spray and microfibre cloth instead of cleaning wipes
● Reusable/washable sanitary products instead of disposable ones
● Homemade biodegradable baby wipes
So, we hope you’re ready to ditch flushing anything but the three Ps and keep your pipes, and the planet, happy.