Think Before You Flush, a public awareness campaign operated by Clean Coasts in partnership with Uisce Éireann, is asking students to rethink their flushing behaviour during Trinity College Dublin Green Week. Green Week is run in third level campuses all around the country, promoting green initiatives on campus.
The Think Before You Flush campaign addresses the issue of flushing unsuitable items down the toilet and highlights the consequences of doing so. These consequences include blockages in our wastewater network and treatment plants, surface water overflows and sewage-related litter in our natural environment. The campaign message is simple. Only flush the 3P’s (pee, poo, and paper) down the toilet and everything else goes in the bin. To help protect our wastewater network and environment, damaging items such as wet wipes, period products and dental floss, should never be flushed down the toilet.
In Ireland, 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, items like wet wipes do not break down. These items also quite often contain plastic and, as they degrade, can release microplastics into our aquatic environment.
For Green Week, the Think Before Your flush campaign brought their interactive exhibition to the Trinity College Dublin campus and hosted a discussion on marine litter and sewage-related litter. The campaign also chatted about the issue of pouring fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) from cooking down the kitchen sink. While they are a liquid at room temperature they harden as they travel along the wastewater network. These FOGs can then combine with wipes and other sewage related litter such as hair and dental floss to form fatbergs. Uisce Éireann clear hundreds of blockages including fatbergs from the wastewater network every week.
Liane Costello is a campaign officer with Clean Coasts and speaking about the campaign said “80 percent of marine litter originates from inland sources. Something as harmless as a wipe or tampon can travel from our toilet to the ocean or be washed up on our coastline. As these items make their journey from source to sea, they can cause blockages in our wastewater network and damage to marine life. There is, however, a simple solution. Only flush the 3P’s down the toilet and everything else goes in the bin.”
Wastewater Lead and Uisce Éireann’s Think Before You Flush Ambassador, Donal Heaney, added. “Green Week is a perfect opportunity to highlight critically important environmental campaigns such Think Before They Flush. Items like wipes, cotton wool, cotton buds, plasters, sanitary waste, dental floss and even hair should never be flushed down the toilet because they can cause blockages in the wastewater network, pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants and can cause pollution. We all have a role in safeguarding our environment so to echo Liane, remember that only pee, poo and paper should be flushed down the toilet, everything else goes in the bin”.
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