Press Releases

Year 2 of the ‘Think Before You Flush’ Communities marks the introduction of 9 new community initiatives
Is your community on the list?

Today, 25th January, Clean Coasts partnered with Irish Water, for the second year running, launch the ‘Think Before You Flush’ Community Initiative.  This programme aims to tackle the problems sanitary products can cause our waste water network and marine environment if flushed down the toilet.

As part of the Initiative, educational workshops for schools and businesses as well as community information events will be held to raise awareness of sewage related littering and change poor flushing behaviour.

In 2015, the ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign focused on a community initiative in Galway City.  Due to its great success this year 8 more communities from across the country are now actively involved. These communities will work with Clean Coasts and Irish Water to increase awareness of sewage related litter.

The ‘Think Before You Flush’ Communities for 2017 are:

1.    Galway City

2.    Balbriggan, Dublin

3.    Ballycotton, Cork

4.    Birr, Offaly

5.    Wexford Town, Wexford

6.    Dingle, Kerry

7.    Bettystown, Meath

8.    Virginia, Cavan

9.    Tramore, Waterford

Sanitary items such as cotton bud sticks, face/baby wipes and those items we term as our ‘Dirty Dozen’ should not be flushed down the toilet, entering our waste water treatment network, which is unable to deal with this type of waste. In a study of over 1000 Irish people, a shocking 3 in 10 admitted to flushing such items down the toilet. Of these, 58% admitted to flushing baby wipes down the toilet, 40% facial wipes, 26% cotton bud sticks, 24% tampons and 21% cigarette butts. More than half of those who flush these items down the toilet did so simply due to a lack of knowledge. Sewage related litter is one of the largest categories of litter found on our beaches and is considered to be the most offensive.

90% of those surveyed agreed that seeing sewage related litter during a visit to the beach would disgust them while 84% of those surveyed agreed that if they knew that the items flushed down the toilet could end up being discharged into the ocean and could pollute our coastline and cause potential health risks they would not dispose of items in this way. This type of marine litter is totally preventable by simply changing our flushing behaviour.

Speaking about the expansion of the Think Before You Flush initiative to 9 Communities Sinead McCoy, Coastal Communities Manager, An Taisce said, “The Think Before You Flush campaign increases education and awareness about sewage related litter, enabling people to realise the consequence of their simple bathroom routine, and preventing items like cotton bud sticks washing up on Ireland’s spectacular beaches.

Grainne Carey, Regional Information Specialist, Irish Water said, “By making small changes in our flushing behaviour we can prevent the harm caused by sewage related litter in the marine environment. Irish Water is investing significantly in improvements to wastewater infrastructure across the country and by partnering with Clean Coasts and local communities around the country we aim to develop an holistic approach to ensure our beaches and other receiving waters, are safe and protected.’’

For more information about Think Before You Flush please visit www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org

An animation showing the impact of sewage related litter is also available on the Clean Coasts YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/8uzdo-8foRs and on www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org

Ends///

Marine Litter

Marine Litter includes a range of materials which have been deliberately discarded, or accidentally lost on shore or at sea. It includes materials that are carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage, sewage systems and even by the wind.

Sewage Related Litter

Sewage Related Litter is made up of sanitary products and other items that are flushed down public and private toilets and end up littering inland and coastal waterways. Such litter typically consists of cotton bud sticks, sanitary towels, backing strips, tampons, plastic tampon applicators, cotton wool, condoms, cigarette stubs, facial cleansing wipes, baby wipes and toilet fresheners. Less common items include nappies, plasters, medicines and toilet roll tubes.

Sewage related litter enters the sewer system but this system is not designed to process them. Smaller items that are flushed, such as cotton buds, can escape through wastewater filters at the treatment plant and reach our rivers and beaches. Many other dangerous and unsuitable items are also incorrectly disposed of through the toilet into the sewage system, such as razor blades, healthcare waste and medicine. This can end up on our waterways and beaches.

Summary of Our Nation’s Flushing Behaviour Survey
Clean Coasts commissioned a survey of the nation’s flushing behaviour. We wanted to find out; Who disposes of waste in this manner?; What Sewage Related Litter) items do they dispose of?; Why do people flush items down the toilet?; What can be done to encourage a change in behaviour?

We wanted to understand the nation’s flushing behaviour and to do this we used the following metrics:

  • Incidence levels within the Irish population of sewage-related littering;
  • Reasons for littering in this way;
  • Awareness of the implications of disposing of litter in this manner;
  • Attitudes towards sewage-related littering

Who was surveyed?

1,033 adults aged 18+ were interviewed. Quotas were set and final data weighted to known national profiles of adults aged 18+ on age, gender, class and region to ensure that the sample is representative of the total Irish population.

What did we find out?

  • 3 in 10 Irish adults have flushed items other than toilet paper down the toilet. This figure is higher among those under 35.
  • Lack of knowledge is the primary reason for sewage-related littering among those who do so. The destructive nature of such behaviour is not common knowledge. 52% of sewage relating littering is a consequence of lack of knowledge.
    • 40% thought it was ok to do so
    • 33% did so for convenience
    • 26% said it was only a small item
    • 20% said there was no bin available
    • 18% said it was too messy to dispose of in an alternative way
    • 15% said it was out of habit
    • 1 in 4 believe these items are chemically broken down
    • 1 in 2 thinking they just disintegrate following flushing.
  • The top items incorrectly disposed of are:
    • Baby wipes 58%
    • Facial wipes 40%
    • Cotton buds 26%
    • Tampons 24%
    • Cigarette butts 21%
    • Plasters 18%
    • Condoms 18%
    • Food 15%
    • Medicines 12%
    • Sanitary pads 6%
    • Tampon applicators 5%
    • Toilet roll tube 4%
    • Nappies 2%
    • Cotton wool 1%
    • Dental floss 1%
  • 6 in 10 stated that they have flushed baby products down the toilet, with baby wipes being the number one item cited by all adults – this figure is slightly higher among women.
  • Female hygiene products are only mentioned by 3 in 10 of our total sample rising to over 1 in 2 for females only.
  • Males on the other hand over-index on disposing of cotton buds, cigarettes, plasters and condoms.

What are people’s attitudes to sewage related littering?

  • 90% agreed – Seeing sewage related litter during a visit to the beach in Ireland would disgust me”
  • 90% agreed – “We need more education about where items other than toilet paper which are flushed down the toilet end up to make sure that less people dispose of waste in this way”
  • 84% agreed – “If I knew that the items flushed down the toilet could end up being discharged in to the ocean and could pollute our coastline and cause potential health risks I would not dispose of items in this way”
  • 78% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet damages our environment”
  • 12% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet is acceptable”

When it comes to encouraging people not to engage in sewage-related littering, 1 in 4 of the total sample suggest demonstrating the consequences of such behaviour is the way to go, with 1 in 3 who have done so endorsing this option.

Clean Coasts

Clean Coasts Ireland is owned and operated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. It is funded by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, Coca-Cola and Fáilte Ireland. It has been operating in Ireland for 13 years and engages +500 Clean Coasts groups and thousands of beach users. The Green Coast award is also part of the Clean Coasts programme and is an award for beaches that have excellent water quality but may not have the necessary built infrastructure to be eligible for the Blue Flag award. www.cleancoasts.org

Irish Water

Irish Water (www.water.ie) is the national water utility responsible for providing and developing water services throughout Ireland.  Incorporated in July 2013 as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013, Irish Water is bringing the water and waste water services of 31 Local Authorities together under one national service provider. The purpose of Irish Water is to safeguard water as a precious natural resource and to deliver water services in a way that protects the environment and meets the needs of all citizens and industry now and in the future.

Irish Water is accountable to two regulatory bodies – the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is the economic regulator for the water industry, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is the environmental regulator.

Irish Water is a registered subsidiary company of Ervia (www.ervia.ie)

It’s World Toilet Day
Time to cast your vote!

Cast your vote on World Toilet Day, 19th November! Today is the final day for the public to vote for the Peoples Choice category in the ‘Think Before You Flush’ Third Level Video Competition. The video with the most views at 5pm today, World Toilet Day will be awarded the coveted People Choice Award. Winner will be announced shortly after 5pm.

Shortlist videos can be viewed here: http://thinkbeforeyouflush.org/think-flush-video-competition-2016/

Clean Coasts are delighted to announce the shortlist for the ‘Think Before You Flush’ Third Level Video Competition, supported by Irish Water. The competition asked third level students to create a video that ties into our ‘Think Before You Flush’ and ‘Think Before You Pour’ campaigns. Entrants competed over a €2,250.00 prize fund, with prizes being awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, as well as a People’s Choice award.

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.

1st, 2nd and 3rd Place will be decided by a panel of judges and will be announced at the Clean Coasts Symposium and Ocean Hero Awards on the 1st December. The People Choice winner will also be awarded on this day.

For more information about ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign please visit www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org

Ends///

Marine Litter

Marine Litter includes a range of materials which have been deliberately discarded, or accidentally lost on shore or at sea. It includes materials that are carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage, sewage systems and even by the wind.

Summary of Our Nation’s Flushing Behaviour Survey

Clean Coasts commissioned a survey of the nation’s flushing behaviour. We wanted to find out; Who disposes of waste in this manner?; What Sewage Related Litter) items do they dispose of?; Why do people flush items down the toilet?; What can be done to encourage a change in behaviour?

We wanted to understand the nation’s flushing behaviour and to do this we used the following metrics:

  • Incidence levels within the Irish population of sewage-related littering;
  • Reasons for littering in this way;
  • Awareness of the implications of disposing of litter in this manner;
  • Attitudes towards sewage-related littering

Who was surveyed?

1,033 adults aged 18+ were interviewed. Quotas were set and final data weighted to known national profiles of adults aged 18+ on age, gender, class and region to ensure that the sample is representative of the total Irish population.

What did we find out?

  • 3 in 10 Irish adults have flushed items other than toilet paper down the toilet. This figure is higher among those under 35.
  • Lack of knowledge is the primary reason for sewage-related littering among those who do so. The destructive nature of such behaviour is not common knowledge. 52% of sewage relating littering is a consequence of lack of knowledge.
    • 40% thought it was ok to do so
    • 33% did so for convenience
    • 26% said it was only a small item
    • 20% said there was no bin available
    • 18% said it was too messy to dispose of in an alternative way
    • 15% said it was out of habit
    • 1 in 4 believe these items are chemically broken down
    • 1 in 2 thinking they just disintegrate following flushing.
  • The top items incorrectly disposed of are:
    • Baby wipes 58%
    • Facial wipes 40%
    • Cotton buds 26%
    • Tampons 24%
    • Cigarette butts 21%
    • Plasters 18%
    • Condoms 18%
    • Food 15%
    • Medicines 12%
    • Sanitary pads 6%
    • Tampon applicators 5%
    • Toilet roll tube 4%
    • Nappies 2%
    • Cotton wool 1%
    • Dental floss 1%
  • 6 in 10 stated that they have flushed baby products down the toilet, with baby wipes being the number one item cited by all adults – this figure is slightly higher among women.
  • Female hygiene products are only mentioned by 3 in 10 of our total sample rising to over 1 in 2 for females only.
  • Males on the other hand over-index on disposing of cotton buds, cigarettes, plasters and condoms.

What are people’s attitudes to sewage related littering?

  • 90% agreed – Seeing sewage related litter during a visit to the beach in Ireland would disgust me
  • 90% agreed – “We need more education about where items other than toilet paper which are flushed down the toilet end up to make sure that less people dispose of waste in this way”
  • 84% agreed – “If I knew that the items flushed down the toilet could end up being discharged in to the ocean and could pollute our coastline and cause potential health risks I would not dispose of items in this way”
  • 78% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet damages our environment”
  • 12% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet is acceptable” 

When it comes to encouraging people not to engage in sewage-related littering, 1 in 4 of the total sample suggest demonstrating the consequences of such behaviour is the way to go, with 1 in 3 who have done so endorsing this option.

Clean Coasts

Clean Coasts Ireland is owned and operated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. It is funded by the Department of the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Coca-Cola and Fáilte Ireland. It engages over 500 Clean Coasts groups and thousands of beach users. The Green Coast award is also part of the Clean Coasts programme and is an award for beaches that have excellent water quality but may not have the necessary built infrastructure to be eligible for the Blue Flag award. www.cleancoasts.org

Irish Water

Irish Water (www.water.ie) is the new national water utility responsible for providing and developing water services throughout Ireland.  Incorporated in July 2013 as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013, Irish Water will bring the water and waste water services of the 31 Local Authorities together under one national service provider. The purpose of Irish Water is to safeguard water as a precious natural resource and to deliver water services in a way that protects the environment and meets the needs of all citizens and industry now and in the future.

Irish Water will be accountable to two regulatory bodies – the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is the economic regulator for the water industry, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is the environmental regulator.

Irish Water is a registered subsidiary company of Ervia (www.ervia.ie)

11th December 2015: Clean Coasts are delighted to announce the winners of the ‘Think Before You Flush’ Third Level Video Competition, supported by Irish Water. The competition asked third level students to create a video that ties into our new ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign. Entrants competed over a €2,250.00 prize fund

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 difficult task of judging this year’s competition was undertaken by Micheal John O’Mahoney – Director, Environmental Education Unit, An Taisce, Deirdre O’Caroll – Green Campus Manager, An Taisce, Annabel Fitzgerald – Irish Water, Roisin Bradford – Irish Water, Mary O’Brien – Irish Water, Beckey Finn Britton – Digital and Social Media Officer, Clean Coasts, An Taisce. The people choice award was award to the view which received the most views during the 1st – 10th December on the Clean Coasts YouTube channel.

Winners 2015

Award Name College Video link
1st Place Ferdia Sean Mooney DCU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q0SsiGtmgY
2nd Place Catriona Smiddy UCC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y5SIDwRAMk
3rd Place Zac Milofsky NCAD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBKLdA9MtCM
People Choice Award Corey McLaughlin DCU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcAJf_FHR-I

 

For more information about ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign please visit www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org

Ends///

Marine Litter

Marine Litter includes a range of materials which have been deliberately discarded, or accidentally lost on shore or at sea. It includes materials that are carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage, sewage systems and even by the wind.

Summary of Our Nation’s Flushing Behaviour Survey

Clean Coasts commissioned a survey of the nation’s flushing behaviour. We wanted to find out; Who disposes of waste in this manner?; What Sewage Related Litter) items do they dispose of?; Why do people flush items down the toilet?; What can be done to encourage a change in behaviour?

We wanted to understand the nation’s flushing behaviour and to do this we used the following metrics:

  • Incidence levels within the Irish population of sewage-related littering;
  • Reasons for littering in this way;
  • Awareness of the implications of disposing of litter in this manner;
  • Attitudes towards sewage-related littering

Who was surveyed?

1,033 adults aged 18+ were interviewed. Quotas were set and final data weighted to known national profiles of adults aged 18+ on age, gender, class and region to ensure that the sample is representative of the total Irish population.

What did we find out?

  • 3 in 10 Irish adults have flushed items other than toilet paper down the toilet. This figure is higher among those under 35.
  • Lack of knowledge is the primary reason for sewage-related littering among those who do so. The destructive nature of such behaviour is not common knowledge. 52% of sewage relating littering is a consequence of lack of knowledge.
    • 40% thought it was ok to do so
    • 33% did so for convenience
    • 26% said it was only a small item
    • 20% said there was no bin available
    • 18% said it was too messy to dispose of in an alternative way
    • 15% said it was out of habit
    • 1 in 4 believe these items are chemically broken down
    • 1 in 2 thinking they just disintegrate following flushing.
  • The top items incorrectly disposed of are:
    • Baby wipes 58%
    • Facial wipes 40%
    • Cotton buds 26%
    • Tampons 24%
    • Cigarette butts 21%
    • Plasters 18%
    • Condoms 18%
    • Food 15%
    • Medicines 12%
    • Sanitary pads 6%
    • Tampon applicators 5%
    • Toilet roll tube 4%
    • Nappies 2%
    • Cotton wool 1%
    • Dental floss 1%
  • 6 in 10 stated that they have flushed baby products down the toilet, with baby wipes being the number one item cited by all adults – this figure is slightly higher among women.
  • Female hygiene products are only mentioned by 3 in 10 of our total sample rising to over 1 in 2 for females only.
  • Males on the other hand over-index on disposing of cotton buds, cigarettes, plasters and condoms. 

What are people’s attitudes to sewage related littering?

  • 90% agreed – Seeing sewage related litter during a visit to the beach in Ireland would disgust me
  • 90% agreed – “We need more education about where items other than toilet paper which are flushed down the toilet end up to make sure that less people dispose of waste in this way”
  • 84% agreed – “If I knew that the items flushed down the toilet could end up being discharged in to the ocean and could pollute our coastline and cause potential health risks I would not dispose of items in this way”
  • 78% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet damages our environment”
  • 12% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet is acceptable”

When it comes to encouraging people not to engage in sewage-related littering, 1 in 4 of the total sample suggest demonstrating the consequences of such behaviour is the way to go, with 1 in 3 who have done so endorsing this option.

Clean Coasts

Clean Coasts Ireland is owned and operated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. It is funded by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, Coca-Cola and Fáilte Ireland. It has been operating in Ireland for 11 years and engages 437 Clean Coasts groups and thousands of beach users. The Green Coast award is also part of the Clean Coasts programme and is an award for beaches that have excellent water quality but may not have the necessary built infrastructure to be eligible for the Blue Flag award. www.cleancoasts.org

Irish Water

Irish Water (www.water.ie) is the new national water utility responsible for providing and developing water services throughout Ireland. Incorporated in July 2013 as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013, Irish Water will bring the water and waste water services of the 31 Local Authorities together under one national service provider. The purpose of Irish Water is to safeguard water as a precious natural resource and to deliver water services in a way that protects the environment and meets the needs of all citizens and industry now and in the future.

Irish Water will be accountable to two regulatory bodies – the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is the economic regulator for the water industry, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is the environmental regulator.

Irish Water is a registered subsidiary company of Ervia (www.ervia.ie)

Clean Coasts in partnership with Irish Water launch ‘Think Before You Flush’ in Galway and present Ocean Hero Award to Local School

19 November, Galway: Clean Coasts, in partnership with Irish Water are launching the Think Before You Flush Community Initiative in Galway to tackle the problems sanitary products can cause in our wastewater network and our marine environment if they are flushed down the toilet.

Every day people flush thousands of sanitary items such as baby wipes and cotton bud sticks down the toilet instead of simply putting them in the bin. Other items that are frequently flushed down the toilet include cigarette butts and plasters.

In a study of over 1000 Irish people, 3 in 10 admitted to flushing such items down the toilet. Of these, 58% admitted to flushing baby wipes down the toilet, 40% facial wipes, 26% cotton bud sticks, 24% tampons and 21% cigarette butts. More than half of those who flush these items down the toilet did so simply due to a lack of knowledge.

Speaking at the launch of ‘Think Before You Flush’ Community Initiative in Galway, Beckey Finn Britton, Coastal Programmes Officer An Taisce said, “The Think Before You Flush campaign through education and awareness aims to prevent items like wet wipes clogging our wastewater network and cotton bud sticks washing up on our beaches.” She added that, “I am looking forward to helping to make Galway Ireland’s first Think Before You Flush community”

Irish Water also presented the Think Before You Flush Ocean Hero Award to Meanscoil Mhuire, Galway City for their project called Wet Wipe Hype. The prestigious Clean Coasts Ocean Hero Awards are awarded to groups and individuals to acknowledge their efforts in protecting our marine environment.

“Irish Water is delighted to support this important environmental education initiative that highlights the importance of protecting our coastal environment and we are delighted to award Meanscoil Mhuire in Galway with the Think Before You Flush Ocean Hero Award for their efforts in raising awareness about the problems wet wipes can cause when they are flushed down the toilet”, said Sean Corrigan Irish Waters Regional Information Officer, Irish Water. He added that, “Irish Water is prioritising investment in improving wastewater treatment in areas around the country that have been without proper wastewater treatment for many years. We are fortunate to have such a magnificent coastline in Ireland and a really high quality marine environment and the investment we are making in the coming years will ensure this is protected”

The joint presentation by An Taisce and Irish Water co-incided with World Toilet Day, an international initiative to highlight the plight of millions of people around the world who do not have access to a toilet or proper sanitation, and the urgent need to end this sanitation crisis. Clean and safe sanitation ensures health, dignity and well-being, yet 40% of the world’s population does not have access to toilets.

For more information please visit www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org

Ends //

 

Editors Notes

Think Before You Flush Ocean Hero Award Winner Meanscoil Mhuire – Wet Wipe Hype Project

Students from transition year launched an awareness campaign highlighting the issue of flushing wet wipes down the toilet.   The project came about following an interest taken by a former Transition Year class who, during a beach clean two years earlier, discovered a large number of wet wipes entangled in seaweed on a local beach. The students decided to carry out an awareness survey based on the flushing habits of students in the school. They found that 51% of students regularly flushed wet wipes down the toilet and 55% did not know the results of flushing wet wipes. These results led to the development of awareness workshops to be given to students by students. A follow up survey revealed 87% of students who attended the workshop agreed to stop flushing the wipes. The students carried out a further study of the beach which was initially cleaned. They found an average 60 wet wipes washed up per square metre, equivalent to one standard pack of wipes. This resulted in the commencement of a social and local media campaign highlighting the issue. The students also visited a local primary school to inform them about the issue and filmed an awareness video clip for Clean Coasts.

 

 

Do you Think Before You Flush?

Launch of New Animation to get the Nation Thinking

Today, 15th June, Clean Coasts and Irish Water launched the Think Before You Flush Animation which is part of the Think Before You Flush campaign to tackle one of the largest categories of marine litter found on Ireland’s beaches, sewage related litter.

The animation shows the affect of sewage related waste has on our coastal environment and marine life. It also shows examples of what is currently being flushed by people in Ireland, which according to a recent study of over 1,000 Irish people includes baby wipes, cotton bud sticks, cigarette butts and plasters.

With more than half of those who flush these items down the toilet doing so simply due to a lack of knowledge, the animation aims to provide people with a better understanding of the problem sanitary products and other items can cause in our marine environment and our wastewater systems if they are flushed down the toilet; as well as encouraging the nation to bin such items instead of flushing them.

You can find the Think Before You Flush animation and more information on this public awareness campaign at www.thinkbeforeyouflush.org.

The animation is also available on the Clean Coasts YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/8uzdo-8foRs

Ends///

 

Sewage Related Litter

Sewage Related Litter is made up of sanitary products and other items that are flushed down public and private toilets and end up littering inland and coastal waterways. Such litter typically consists of cotton bud sticks, sanitary towels, backing strips, tampons, plastic tampon applicators, cotton wool, condoms, cigarette stubs, facial cleansing wipes, baby wipes and toilet fresheners. Less common items include nappies, plasters, medicines and toilet roll tubes.

Sewage related litter enters the sewer system but this system is not designed to process them. Smaller items that are flushed, such as cotton buds, can escape through wastewater filters at the treatment plant and reach our rivers and beaches. Many other dangerous and unsuitable items are also incorrectly disposed of through the toilet into the sewage system, such as razor blades, healthcare waste and medicine. This can end up on our waterways and beaches. 

Clean Coasts

Clean Coasts Ireland is owned and operated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. It is funded by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, Coca-Cola and Fáilte Ireland. It has been operating in Ireland for 11 years and engages 437 Clean Coasts groups and thousands of beach users. The Green Coast award is also part of the Clean Coasts programme and is an award for beaches that have excellent water quality but may not have the necessary built infrastructure to be eligible for the Blue Flag award. www.cleancoasts.org

Irish Water

Irish Water (www.water.ie) is the new national water utility responsible for providing and developing water services throughout Ireland. Incorporated in July 2013 as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013, Irish Water will bring the water and waste water services of the 31 Local Authorities together under one national service provider. The purpose of Irish Water is to safeguard water as a precious natural resource and to deliver water services in a way that protects the environment and meets the needs of all citizens and industry now and in the future.

Irish Water will be accountable to two regulatory bodies – the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is the economic regulator for the water industry, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is the environmental regulator.

Irish Water is a registered subsidiary company of Ervia (www.ervia.ie)

 

Think Before You Flush

Tackling the Problem of Sewage Related Litter on Ireland’s Beaches

June 8th World Ocean’s Day: Clean Coasts and Irish Water today launched Think Before You Flush, a campaign aiming to tackle the problem of sewage related litter on Ireland’s beaches. 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.

Every day people flush thousands of sanitary items such as baby wipes and cotton bud sticks down the toilet instead of simply putting them in the bin. Other items that are frequently flushed down the toilet include cigarette butts and plasters.

In a study of over 1000 people in Ireland, 3 in 10 admitted to flushing such items down the toilet. Of these, 58% admitted to flushing baby wipes down the toilet, 40% facial wipes, 26% cotton bud sticks, 24% tampons and 21% cigarette butts. More than half of those who flush these items down the toilet did so simply due to a lack of knowledge. Sewage related litter is one of the largest categories of litter found on our beaches and is considered to be the most offensive.

Cotton bud sticks can pass through screens at wastewater treatment plants and are a common marine litter item found on Ireland’s beaches. The majority of cotton bud sticks are made of plastic, persist in the marine environment and can be mistaken as food by seabirds.

Speaking at the launch of Think Before You Flush, Annabel FitzGerald, Coastal Programmes Manager, An Taisce said, “The Think Before You Flush campaign through education and awareness aims to prevent items like cotton bud sticks washing up on Ireland’s spectacular beaches.” She added that, During Clean Coasts Big Beach Clean in September 2014, a total of 1,191 cotton bud sticks were found on 103 beaches. By making small changes in our flushing behaviour we can prevent the harm caused by sewage related litter in the marine environment.”

90% of those surveyed agreed that seeing sewage related litter during a visit to the beach would disgust them while 84% of those surveyed agreed that if they knew that the items flushed down the toilet could end up being discharged into the ocean and could pollute our coastline and cause potential health risks they would not dispose of items in this way. This type of marine litter is totally preventable by simply changing our flushing behaviour.

Commenting at the launch, Elizabeth Arnett, Head of Communications in Irish Water said “Irish Water is delighted to be supporting An Taisce in this initiative. One of our major remits is the provision of reliable wastewater treatment, but everyone has a part to play in ensuring our beaches and rivers are pollution free. Through this campaign we can work together to improve our local freshwaters and coastal areas”.

Ends///

Marine Litter

Marine Litter includes a range of materials which have been deliberately discarded, or accidentally lost on shore or at sea. It includes materials that are carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage, sewage systems and even by the wind.

Summary of Our Nation’s Flushing Behaviour Survey

Clean Coasts commissioned a survey of the nation’s flushing behaviour. We wanted to find out; Who disposes of waste in this manner?; What Sewage Related Litter) items do they dispose of?; Why do people flush items down the toilet?; What can be done to encourage a change in behaviour?

We wanted to understand the nation’s flushing behaviour and to do this we used the following metrics:

  • Incidence levels within the Irish population of sewage-related littering;
  • Reasons for littering in this way;
  • Awareness of the implications of disposing of litter in this manner;
  • Attitudes towards sewage-related littering

Who was surveyed?

1,033 adults aged 18+ were interviewed. Quotas were set and final data weighted to known national profiles of adults aged 18+ on age, gender, class and region to ensure that the sample is representative of the total Irish population.

What did we find out?

  • 3 in 10 Irish adults have flushed items other than toilet paper down the toilet. This figure is higher among those under 35.
  • Lack of knowledge is the primary reason for sewage-related littering among those who do so. The destructive nature of such behaviour is not common knowledge. 52% of sewage relating littering is a consequence of lack of knowledge.
    • 40% thought it was ok to do so
    • 33% did so for convenience
    • 26% said it was only a small item
    • 20% said there was no bin available
    • 18% said it was too messy to dispose of in an alternative way
    • 15% said it was out of habit
    • 1 in 4 believe these items are chemically broken down
    • 1 in 2 thinking they just disintegrate following flushing.

The top items incorrectly disposed of are:

  • Baby wipes 58%
    • Facial wipes 40%
    • Cotton buds 26%
    • Tampons 24%
    • Cigarette butts 21%
    • Plasters 18%
    • Condoms 18%
    • Food 15%
    • Medicines 12%
    • Sanitary pads 6%
    • Tampon applicators 5%
    • Toilet roll tube 4%
    • Nappies 2%
    • Cotton wool 1%
    • Dental floss 1%
  • 6 in 10 stated that they have flushed baby products down the toilet, with baby wipes being the number one item cited by all adults – this figure is slightly higher among women.
  • Female hygiene products are only mentioned by 3 in 10 of our total sample rising to over 1 in 2 for females only.
  • Males on the other hand over-index on disposing of cotton buds, cigarettes, plasters and condoms.

 

What are people’s attitudes to sewage related littering?

  • 90% agreed – Seeing sewage related litter during a visit to the beach in Ireland would disgust me
  • 90% agreed – “We need more education about where items other than toilet paper which are flushed down the toilet end up to make sure that less people dispose of waste in this way”
  • 84% agreed – “If I knew that the items flushed down the toilet could end up being discharged in to the ocean and could pollute our coastline and cause potential health risks I would not dispose of items in this way”
  • 78% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet damages our environment”
  • 12% agreed – “Flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet is acceptable”

When it comes to encouraging people not to engage in sewage-related littering, 1 in 4 of the total sample suggest demonstrating the consequences of such behaviour is the way to go, with 1 in 3 who have done so endorsing this option.

Clean Coasts

Clean Coasts Ireland is owned and operated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. It is funded by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, Coca-Cola and Fáilte Ireland. It has been operating in Ireland for 11 years and engages 437 Clean Coasts groups and thousands of beach users. The Green Coast award is also part of the Clean Coasts programme and is an award for beaches that have excellent water quality but may not have the necessary built infrastructure to be eligible for the Blue Flag award. www.cleancoasts.org

Irish Water

Irish Water (www.water.ie) is the new national water utility responsible for providing and developing water services throughout Ireland. Incorporated in July 2013 as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013, Irish Water will bring the water and waste water services of the 31 Local Authorities together under one national service provider. The purpose of Irish Water is to safeguard water as a precious natural resource and to deliver water services in a way that protects the environment and meets the needs of all citizens and industry now and in the future.

Irish Water will be accountable to two regulatory bodies – the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is the economic regulator for the water industry, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is the environmental regulator.

Irish Water is a registered subsidiary company of Ervia (www.ervia.ie)