Raise awareness to prevent the flushing of wet wipes

Irish Water staff from the North West Region together with transition year students from Coláiste Iognáid and Galway Councillor Niall McNelis carried out a beach clean at the Claddagh in Galway City last week. The aim of the beach clean was to raise awareness of the problems caused by people flushing wet wipes down their toilets.

What is the problem?

Every day thousands of sanitary items such as baby wipes and cotton bud sticks are flushed down the toilet instead of simply being put in the bin. Domestic pipes are not designed to carry this type of waste and can easily become blocked. When flushed down the toilet they clump together and cause blockages in our pipes and sewers, causing waste to flow back and flood homes and gardens. Many of these items end up on our beaches, creating a significant threat to wildlife as seabirds often ingest plastic and sewage related litter, mistaking it for food. 

The beach at the Clagdagh, which had recently been cleaned by local Clean Coast groups, looked free from litter, however the group still managed to gather a significant number of bags of rubbish comprising  primarily of wet wipes.

Speaking after the event Councillor Niall McNelis stated: “ Wet wipes cause blockages of pipes in peoples’ homes and in the public sewerage network. They can also end up in the marine environment and pollute our beaches. We are asking the people of Galway to ‘Think Before They Flush’, and to stop flushing wet wipes down their toilets. There are myths that these wet wipes are coming from the wastewater treatment plant in Mutton Island. I recently visited the treatment plant and have seen at first hand the screens that remove 16-18 tonnes of wet wipes, and other none flushable items every month. I can confirm that they do not come from Mutton Island, but from people’s toilets.”

Where does it go?

When the 3 Ps - pee, poo and toilet paper, are flushed down the toilet they travel through your pipes, along the sewer network and into your local wastewater treatment plant. Here the waste is removed and the water cleaned so that it can be safely returned to the sea. Everything else should go in the bin, even wipes that claim to be flushable. 

Shay Walsh, Regional Wastewater Lead for Galway added: “It was great to see the transition year students from Coláiste Iognáid out in force to help with the beach clean. We are sure that they will share the message asking people to ‘Think Before They Flush’. We need to work together as a community to protect our local environment.”

‘Think Before You Flush’ is a public awareness campaign about the problems that sanitary products and other items can cause to the plumbing in our homes, our neighbours’ homes, our wastewater network and our marine environment when they are flushed down the toilet. The campaign is operated by An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme in partnership with Irish Water.

For more information on our work, visit our Projects and Plans section.


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