While the package might say “flushable” it’s important to think twice before flushing that wipe down the toilet. The same goes for hair, dental floss, contact lenses and a host of other unflushables.
Not only can these items clog sewage systems, they can also cause damage to the Capital Regional District’s wastewater treatment facilities, built to process only the Three Ps: pee, poo and toilet paper.
“While we often think wastewater treatment will deal with anything we put down the drain or flush down the toilet, what we flush still matters,” explains Glenn Harris, senior manager of the CRD’s Environmental Protection team. “Flushing items you shouldn’t upsets the sewer system and causes of sorts of problems.”
Unflushable waste can cause blockages and backups in wastewater treatment systems, especially if they mix with fats, oils and grease, which you also shouldn’t put down the drain.
The implications can be costly – for residents and the region. In addition to maintenance and repairs to regional and municipal infrastructure, flushing things you shouldn’t can also damage private plumbing, meaning residents could face additional costs to address sewer backups and be left cleaning up a big mess.
In the community, blockages stemming from inappropriately flushed materials can also cause overflows of raw sewage into local rivers and lakes.
When “flushable” isn’t flushable
With the increased use of products inappropriately marked as “flushable,” what goes down the toilet is more important than ever, Harris says, noting that unlike toilet paper, which is designed to break down quickly once wet, wipes are designed to hold together.
“While these products get past the toilet, unfortunately they don’t get much further than that.”
The good news is that it’s not difficult, time-consuming or expensive to avoid clogs and blockages – you just need to remember “The Three Ps” – nothing else should go down the toilet.
Common culprits on the unflushable list are:
- Wipes and other “flushable” products – disposable wipes (baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, personal wipes) and other items marked as “flushable” are not actually meant to be flushed.
- “Stringy” things and plastic – the stringy things you find in the bathroom, like hair and dental floss, can tie together other unflushable waste in the sewer system, creating a big mess. Plastic items like condoms, contact lenses and tampon applicators must all go in the garbage, not the toilet.
- Medication – flushing expired or unwanted medication can take it to the ocean where it negatively impacts the marine environment. Medications must be returned to a pharmacy for proper disposal.
Help keep the region’s environment clean, protect your home and maintain our wastewater infrastructure. Learn more at www.crd.bc.ca/noflush