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

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.

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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.