When most people flush a toilet all that concerns them is that the contents of the bowl or pan go away. But where is 'away'? Where 'away' happens to be is probably of little concern to most people as long as the toilet bowl is left empty and clean. But what if 'away' is the tideline of your favourite beach or the bank of your local river?
'Think Before You Flush' is a public awareness campaign about the problem sanitary products and other items can cause in our marine environment and our wastewater systems if they are flushed down the toilet. The campaign is operated by An Taisce's Clean Coasts programme and is supported by Irish Water. The Think Before You Flush campaign invites you to join in making small changes in your bathroom behaviour like never using the toilet to dispose of sanitary products.
When the right things go down the toilet they are flushed away and start a journey through our wastewater treatment network travelling along pipes to a treatment plant where the waste is taken out and the water is treated and returned to rivers and the sea.
But, when items are flushed down the toilet that should be put in the bin they cause problems in our homes, in septic tanks, in the wastewater treatment network and at the wastewater treatment plant. These items stick together and block pipes and pumps, which can lead to flooding of homes and gardens. Some of these items also end up on our beaches.
The top toilet tip is to have a bin in the bathroom, so nobody's tempted to flush litter. Wipes, cotton wool, buds, sanitary products and nappies belong in the bin even wipes that claim to be "flushable".
The worst offenders include wet wipes (baby, toddler, toilet, facial and makeup wipes), cotton buds and cotton wool, and cigarette butts. Other things that should never be flushed down the toilet include cleansing pads, toilet roll tubes, medicines, plasters, nappies, tampons, tampon applicators, sanitary pads and condoms.
As a result of polls concerning the nation's flushing behaviour, the good news is the seven out of ten people think before they flush and don't use their toilets as refuse disposal units for items not intended. Younger people are the worst offenders. Sewage related littering was 41% among those aged 18-24 and 43% among those aged 25-34.
Learn more and join the 'Think Before You Flush' campaign at www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org.