Fancy a change this Valentine’s Day? Why not #BreakUpWithPlastic and show your real love for our oceans. Clean Coasts and Uisce Éireann wants you to Think Before You Flush, ditch your single-use plastic toiletries and find a better match.

For the sixth year running, Clean Coasts are asking people around Ireland to #BreakUpWithPlastic this Valentine’s Day and switch to sustainable, reusable alternatives. This year, the focus is on the bathroom and the Think Before You Flush campaign, which is operated by Clean Coasts in partnership with Uisce Éireann. 

The Think Before You Flush campaign highlights the issue of flushing unsuitable items down the toilet and the consequences of doing so, such as blockages in our wastewater network and treatment plants; surface water overflows; and sewage related litter in our rivers, on our beaches and in our oceans, damaging our marine environment. 

Why #BreakUpWithPlastic in the bathroom? 

At the heart of it, Valentine’s Day is a time to reflect on our relationships – the good and the bad. This February, it might be time to start questioning our relationship to things that may not be benefitting our environment or us. For example, our reliance on single-use plastic. 

Did you know that items flushed down the toilet, other than the 3 Ps (pee, poo and paper), can make their way to our rivers and oceans? Research has found that one in five adults (21%) in Ireland regularly admits to flushing items down the toilet that contain plastic and are known to cause blockages. These items such as wipes, cotton bud sticks and dental floss can cause detrimental effects on wastewater treatment plants and networks, impacting river and marine environments.  

Ireland has some of the most diverse and spectacular coastlines in the world. However, our excessive use of plastic is polluting our oceans and it is having impacts on our waterways and threatening our marine wildlife and people’s health. Statistics show that Ireland is the number one plastic waste producer in the European Union, with 65kg of plastic waste per person produced each year, as well as being the country with the fifth lowest recycling rate. 

The #BreakUpWithPlastic initiative aims to raise awareness of the impact of plastic pollution on our planet and marine environment by asking people to stop opting for single-use plastic. 

Speaking about the campaign, Sinead McCoy, Clean Coasts said, “Clean Coasts are highlighting ways that we can all try and reduce plastic in our lives.  As we know single use plastic is an immense waste issue that creates a vast array of issues for our world, so a move to more sustainable and reusable items can have a real positive impact on the world around us. Sinead continued, “We realise it can be difficult to make the break from single use, so for anybody starting the journey towards new, reusable, long-lasting loves, we have tips and hints on our website to get you started.” 

Talking about the size and scale of the problem associated with flushing the wrong things down the toilet, Tom Cuddy, Uisce Éireann said: “Everyday people flush items such as wet wipes down the toilet instead of simply putting them in the bin. This causes blockages in our network, pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants. Recent studies have found that 2 out of 10 people admit to flushing inappropriate items down the toilet such as wipes, dental floss, tampons, cotton buds, cigarette butts.  It is no surprise therefore that we are clearing thousands of blockages from our wastewater network every year, a significant proportion of which are caused by wipes.” 

Tom continued: “People are using single use plastics at home and in the bathroom more than ever. However, it is important that we dispose of such items like wipes correctly. A simple solution is to only flush the 3 P’s – pee, poo and paper down the toilet and throw wipes and other sanitary products in the bin. In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, Think Before You Flush are asking you to #BreakUpWithPlastic and bin your wipes.”