Sewage Related Litter

Cotton bud sticks found on beach.

Cotton bud sticks found on beach.

What is Sewage Related Litter?

Sewage Related Litter is made up of sanitary products and other items that are flushed down public and private toilets and end up littering inland and coastal waterways. Such litter typically consists of cotton bud sticks, sanitary towels, backing strips, tampons, plastic tampon applicators, cotton wool, condoms, cigarette stubs, facial cleansing wipes, baby wipes, and toilet fresheners. Less common items include nappies, plasters, medicines and toilet roll tubes.

Sewage related litter enters the sewer system but this system is not designed to process them. Smaller items that are flushed, such as cotton buds, can escape through wastewater filters at the treatment plant and reach our rivers and beaches. Many other dangerous and unsuitable items are also incorrectly disposed of through the toilet into the sewage system, such as razor blades, healthcare waste and medicine. This can end up on our waterways and beaches.

What is the Impact of Sewage Related Litter?

Impact of Sewage Related Litter on our Environment

Sewage related litter is the third largest category of beach litter. It is the most offensive to beach visitors and is all too common on Ireland’s beaches. The visual impact of sewage related litter on the environment is significant and one which deters visitors from using the beach, impacting on tourism and the local economy. It can also pose a danger to wildlife –sea birds in particular can ingest plastic sewage related litter as they frequently mistake it for food.

Impact of Sewage Related Litter in our Home

No matter what it says on the packaging, most of our personal healthcare and beauty products must never be disposed of down the toilet. Many of these products don’t break down like toilet paper does. Instead they collect in our domestic waste water pipes and form blockages. Domestic pipes are not designed to carry this type of waste and can easily become blocked.

This results in costly maintenance, repairs, flooding and environmental pollution. Most products should be treated as waste and put in the bin and not be flushed down the toilet.

Impact of Sewage Related Litter on Wastewater Infrastructure

Ragging is the name given to the clogging or damage caused to pumps by sewage related litter, especially by fibrous materials such as wet wipes which people flush down the toilet. At the Wastewater Treatment Plant, sewage related litter adds to the volume of solid matter which has to be carefully and expensively removed for landfill. Even dental floss should not be flushed down the toilet as it can collect in filters during the treatment process and cause machinery to break down.

Sewage Related Litter: Source to Sea