Think Before You Flush, a campaign operated by Clean Coasts in partnership with Uisce Éireann, headed to St. Colmcille Junior National School, Ballybrack, to discuss the environmental issues of marine litter and sewage-related litter. The campaign has asked the students to help spread the campaign message throughout the community.
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 on our beaches and in our oceans, damaging our marine environment. Many toiletries, such as wet 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 wet wipes, facial pads and dental floss but are unaware of the problems associated with these items when inappropriately flushed down the toilet. Research has found that just over one in five adults regularly admit to flushing items down the toilet that are known to cause blockages, causing detrimental effects on the wastewater network and the marine environment. Unlike toilet paper, which is designed to disintegrate quickly in our pipes and sewage systems, other items don’t break down easily.
The students at St. Colmcille Junior National School also learnt about Think Before You Pour. This campaign looks at the issue of pouring fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) from cooking down the kitchen sink. Instead of flowing freely they cool and harden as they travel along the wastewater network, when these FOGs combine with wipes and other sewage related litter such as hair and dental floss, fatbergs can form. Uisce Éireann clears hundreds of blockages including fatbergs from the wastewater network every week. The Think Before Pour campaign urges everyone to avoid washing FOGs down the kitchen drain and, instead, dispose of them in the bin once cool.
Liane Costello is a campaign officer with Clean Coasts and speaking about the workshop said “We were delighted to be invited to St. Colmcille Junior National School to share our campaign. It is of the utmost importance that we talk to people of all ages about the Think Before You Flush campaign. Sewage related litter and our wastewater concerns us all. The main thing to remember is to only flush the 3 P’s (pee, poo and paper), and that everything else goes in the bin.”
Wastewater Lead and Uisce Éireann’s Think Before You Flush Ambassador, Donal Heaney knows only too well the detrimental effect that the dirty dozen can have on the environment. “The dirty dozen when flushed down the toilets of Ireland impact all aspects of the environment clumping together and causing blockages in our household plumbing and sewerage network, causing wastewater flooding of homes and gardens. Many of these items end up in streams, rivers and on our beaches, creating a significant threat to wildlife as seabirds often ingest plastic and sewage related litter, mistaking it for food.”
Donal added, “Sewage related litter is polluting our marine, coastal, and river environments and putting unnecessary pressure on Ireland’s wastewater infrastructure. Every single person in Ireland can play their part in ensuring that toilets are used for their intended purpose; pee, poo, and paper. We hope the students enjoyed the workshop and will continue to Think Before They Flush.”
If you are a teacher and would like to book a free workshop, head to https://thinkbeforeyouflush.org/ and follow @CleanCoasts on social media.