Last Tuesday the 7th of May Elaine Doyle, Clean Coasts Development Officer met with 5th year students from Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown for a Think Before You Flush workshop on Myrtleville Beach. The workshop highlighted issues associated with flushing items such as wipes, cotton bud sticks and dental floss down the toilet and how their presence can impact wastewater networks and water quality. The event offered an ideal opportunity to learn more about the campaign outside the classroom in the natural environment. A selection of students within the group hold positions as ambassadors of the Green Schools Water programme so the workshop also offered an opportunity to discuss subjects related to their positions and how different environmental programmes overlap and complement each other.

The Think Before You Flush campaign is a public awareness initiative run by Clean Coasts in partnership with Uisce Éireann. The campaign, in its eighth year, focuses on the issue of flushing unsuitable items down the toilet and highlights the consequences of doing so, which include blockages in our homes, wastewater treatment networks and sewage related litter ending up in our waterways and on our coastline. Sewage related litter can impact water quality and the marine life that rely on our waterways for their habitat and well-being. The campaign’s central message is to only flush the 3Ps: pee, poo and paper down the toilet and to remember that all other waste belongs in the bin.

Elaines presentation also included the Think Before You Pour campaign which highlights the issue of pouring fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) from cooking down the kitchen sink. FOGs cool and harden after being poured away and when they combine with wet wipes and other sewage related litter, fatbergs can form. Uisce Éireann clears thousands of blockages, including fatbergs, from the wastewater network every year. The Think Before You Pour campaign asks everyone to never pour FOGs down the drain but to let them cool and stick them in the bin instead.

Elaine Doyle had this to say, “it is always great to meet students outside of the classroom for an alternative learning experience and no better place than on the beach! You are never too young or old to make a difference and the students were eager to return to school with new knowledge of the campaign and the simple message of only flushing the 3ps.”

Speaking after the event, Mary Hussey, Wastewater Regional Operational Manager at Uisce Éireann said: “Everyday thousands of unsuitable items are flushed down toilet instead of being put in the bin. At wastewater treatment plants right across Ireland we are removing an increasing volume of items including wipes from the inlets. The flushing of wipes is one of the most common items causing blockages in our wastewater network, leading to sewer overflows and pollution in our rivers, on our beaches and in the ocean. We are encouraging people to Think Before You Flush and to consider the impacts on the local environment and community.”