The Think Before You Flush campaign had a stand at Roundwood Festival urging residents to make small changes at home that will have a big impact on our environment.
Flushing unsuitable items like wipes down the toilet can have huge implications for our wastewater systems and damage our local environment. As part of the Think Before You Flush regional campaign, there was an information stand at Roundwood Festival on Sunday 31st July, encouraging the people of Roundwood, Wicklow to be mindful of what goes down their toilets and sinks. Think Before You Flush and Think Before You Pour are public awareness campaigns operated by Clean Coasts in partnership with Irish Water.
Think Before You Flush addresses the issue of flushing unsuitable items down the toilet and highlights the consequences of doing so, such as blockages in our wastewater network and treatment plants, surface water overflows and sewage related litter impacting rivers, beaches, oceans and damaging our marine environment. Many toiletries, such as wipes, cotton pads and dental floss, are part of the ‘Dirty Dozen’, which are the top 12 items that are incorrectly flushed down the toilet in Ireland. Other items include hair; paper towels; medicine; tampons; food items; contact lenses; condoms; cigarette butts; and cotton bud sticks.
There is no denying these items are incredibly useful. Many people love the convenience of disposable wipes and cotton pads but are unaware of the problems associated with these items when inappropriately flushed down the toilet. Unlike toilet paper, which is designed to disintegrate quickly in our pipes and sewage systems, other items don’t break down easily.
Furthermore, when fats, oils and greases (FOGs) from cooking are poured down the kitchen sink, they cool and harden as they travel along the wastewater network. When FOGs combine with wipes and other sewage related litter such as hair and dental floss that shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet, fatbergs can form. Irish Water clears hundreds of blockages including fatbergs from the wastewater network every week.
This Summer, the Think Before You Flush campaign has rolled out an education and awareness campaign in Roundwood to highlight the need for locals and visitors to maintain proper flushing and pouring behaviour in the area. Nationally in 2021, Irish Water responded to approximately 10,000 customer notified blockages (approximately 200 every week) and removed 162 tonnes of wipes and other items from the screens at wastewater treatment plants every month – that’s close to 2,000 tonnes/ year.
Speaking about the education and awareness drive being undertaken in Roundwood Tom Cuddy, Irish Water said: “Irish Water is committed to safeguarding the local environment and returning wastewater safely to the environment. Our operational staff in Roundwood have started to experience a significant strain on the wastewater infrastructure due to large volumes of fats oils and greases, wipes and associated sanitary waste being disposed of incorrectly into our network. This is resulting in significant operational difficulties for our staff and the plant.
“We are asking everyone living in and visiting Roundwood to be very conscious of the impact their flushing and pouring behaviour can have on their local wastewater networks and treatment plants and would ask that they dispose of FOGs and other products such as wipes and sanitary waste correctly.
Tom continued: “Irish Water is investing in wastewater infrastructure right across the country. We are building new wastewater treatment plants, upgrading old plants and laying new sewers. However, it is still really important that both businesses and the wider public don’t dispose of FOGs and sanitary products incorrectly and are aware of the impact of what they dispose of, so the network can function efficiently and effectively and protect the environment.”
Speaking about the campaign Sinead McCoy, Coastal Communities Manager, Clean Coasts, said: “We’re delighted to engage with businesses in Roundwood to remind people to ‘Think Before You Flush’. The aim of the campaign is to create positive behavioural change and raise awareness about the impact sewage related litter has on our environment and wastewater network. We hope the business and community in Roundwood will join us in raising awareness by displaying these resources and help spread this important message.”
Join the campaign at https://thinkbeforeyouflush.org/ and follow @CleanCoasts on social media.