Think Before You Flush

Every day thousands of unsuitable items are flushed down the toilet instead of being put in the bin. This creates problems to the plumbing in our homes, our neighbour’s homes, our wastewater network and our marine 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 neighbour’s 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.

Flushing wet wipes is one of the leading causes of blocked pipes in Ireland

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 and can easily become blocked. When flushed, 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, sewage related litter, mistaking it for food. 

How to prevent blocked pipes and drains | Wastewater Issues | Irish Water

A cotton bud stick can take 150 years to break down in the sea

Only Flush the 3 Ps - Pee, Poo and Paper

When the 3 P’s - 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 goes in the bin, even wipes that claim to be flushable. 

When the following items are flushed down the toilet they cause problems in our homes, sewers and to the marine environment. Always put them in the bin and never down the toilet. 

  • Wipes do not disintegrate when flushed and are often found on our beaches entangled in seaweed
  • Cotton bud sticks are made of plastic and can last a very long time on our beaches
  • Cotton Wool gathers together in U-bends and can cause blockages and flooding
  • Flushing Unused Medication can destroy bacteria, contaminate groundwater and impact wildlife. Always bring out-of-date/unused medicine to your local pharmacy for safe disposal
  • When Hair is flushed down the toilet it can form giant balls which trap odours and can cause blockages in pipes
  • Plasters are made from non-biodegradable plastic and can cause blockages when clumped with other items
  • Dental floss is not biodegradable and if flushed can wrap itself around other objects in the pipes causing blockages 
  • Disposable Nappies are made from plastic which expands when wet and cause major blockages in U-bends

Think Before You Flush Communities

15 Communities across the country have been selected to become Think Before You Flush Communities. Through this initiative, Irish Water and Clean Coasts deliver educational workshops in schools, at festivals and community events as well working with businesses and the wider community, raising awareness and providing advice on responsible bathroom behaviour.

The 15 Think Before You Flush Communities include:

Dublin City; Blackrock, Co. Louth; Navan, Co. Meath; Maynooth, Co. Kildare; Tullamore, Co. Offaly; Cork City, Dunmanway and Bantry, Co. Cork; Waterford City and Tramore, Co. Waterford; Galway City and Ahascraugh, Co. Galway; Strandhill, Co. Sligo; Bellmullet, Co. Mayo; Bundoran, Co. Donegal

Ragging and wastewater treatment

Ragging is the name given to the clogging or damage caused to pumps when unsuitable items, especially fibrous materials such as wet wipes, are flushed down the toilet. At the Wastewater Treatment Plant, sewage related litter adds to the volume of solid matter which has to be carefully and expensively removed for landfill. Dental floss in particular should not be flushed down the toilet as it can collect in filters during the treatment process and cause machinery to break down. 

Image: The image shows sewage related materials being removed from the sewer network. 

The Think Before You Flush Campaign

The Think Before You Fush campaign is operated by An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme in partnership with Irish Water. For more information visit www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org

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