Almost a million Irish people using the toilet as a bin

03 October 2022

Irish Water and Clean Coasts are urging the public to continue to ‘Think Before You Flush’ as alarmingly a recent survey has revealed that almost a million adults living in Ireland continue to regularly flush wipes and other sanitary items down the toilet. Worryingly those aged under 35 are twice as likely to dispose of ‘flushable’ wipes down the toilet, compared to those aged over 35. No wipes whether marked ‘flushable’ or not should be flushed down the toilet. With sea swimming and the use of our beaches increasingly popular all year-round, it’s a timely reminder that our flushing behaviour has a direct impact on the environment and that making small changes can help prevent sanitary waste ending up on Ireland’s sandy beaches, rocky shores and secluded bays.

A new campaign video targeting under 35 years olds aims to connect with this audience in way that encourages real behavioural change.

Broadcaster Bláthnaid Treacy who is also supporting the campaign, said: “I am delighted to support the ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign. For me, it is important that we all play a positive role when it comes protecting the environment. Collectively, small changes can have a huge impact so I would encourage everyone to consider their flushing habits. It is simple really, just ‘Think Before You Flush’.

Speaking about the survey results Donal Heaney, Irish Water said: “In 2018, our research informed us that 36% of people living in Ireland were regularly flushing the wrong things down the toilet. Irish Water have been working in partnership with Clean Coasts on the ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign and during this time, we have made significant progress, as this figure has now reduced to 21%. Whilst this represents a 42% improvement in peoples flushing behaviour, it still represents almost a million people using the toilet as a bin. The impacts of flushing the wrong things down the toilet are clear to see, as we are still removing thousands of sewer blockages from our network every month and continue to see this waste ending up on our beaches”.

Following the latest survey’s findings, we have a call to action to those aged 35 and under in particular to be mindful of their flushing behaviour as this age profile can really help make the difference. We are keen to remind people that wipes should never be flushed down the toilet even if they are labelled as ‘flushable’. The impact of this waste ending up in our natural environment, on our beaches, shores and riverways is stark. Removing this waste from the sewerage network can be a nasty job which is easily avoided.

Our message is simple: only the 3 Ps, pee, poo and paper should be flushed down the toilet. All other items including wipes and other sanitary products should go in the bin even if they are labelled as flushable. This will reduce the number of sewer blockages, the risk of flooding to homes and businesses and the risk of pollution in the environment harming wildlife such as fish and birds and associated habitats. We have all witnessed the love story unfold between the public and swimming whether that be at piers, beaches, lakes or rivers. A small change in our flushing behaviour can make a big difference to our natural environment - put wipes, cotton bud sticks and sanitary items in the bin and not down the toilet.

Speaking about the campaign, Sinead McCoy, Clean Coasts said: “The Think Before You Flush campaign, through education and awareness, aims to prevent items like wipes, cotton bud sticks and sanitary items washing up on Ireland’s spectacular beaches. While we have seen a positive improvement in the nations flushing behaviour since 2018, one in five adults still admit to regularly flushing unsuitable items down the toilet. By making small changes in our flushing behaviour, we can prevent the harm caused by sewage related litter in our marine environment. We are asking everybody to only flush the 3 P’s – pee, poo and paper, and put everything else in the bin.