Respect the flush
It could be no one ever really explained it to you. When kids are little, they see the swirling water and hear the flushing sound of a toilet and simply think it’s a device that makes things disappear. Perhaps that is why plumbers have retrieved everything from stuffed animals to cell phones to jewelry to photographs to wigs. And then there is the pet fish, placed there by a child wishing to set it free after seeing Finding Nemo. What they don’t know is that saying “Just keep swimming!” doesn’t liberate the fish.
Home toilets are not designed for dumping — anything, that is, except for the big three Ps: pee. poop and paper (of the variety that made Charmin famous). In an article from an environmentally friendly web site called SurferToday, we learn that the wastewater journey usually takes one of two directions: it either heads by way of a pipe to your community’s local sewer, or into a septic tank close to your home.
“Before it reaches your local treatment plant, wastewater goes through a screen of metal rods that filter larger objects and items that get into the sewers,” says the article. “From there, it all goes to the settling tank where solids like sand and gravel that have been picked along the way settle to the bottom.” It goes on to say that these early treatment stations are also responsible for removing other “flushables.”
It also points out that 50 percent of the so-called non-dispersible material in wastewater is paper towels from public restrooms, followed by 25 percent of baby wipes, and then a mixture of condoms, cosmetic wipes, tampon applicators, and other items. Disgusted yet?
The rest of the journey involves sedimentation tanks, aeration tanks, new settling tanks, and, in some cases, tertiary treatment facilities where it is disinfected with chlorine and/or ultraviolet (UV) light. But you probably never really cared. So let’s just get straight what you should NEVER place in the toilet. By reducing the amount of toxic and potentially harmful objects and chemicals that interact with water and marine life, you are not only saving your environment; you are also keeping your plumbing from getting damaged. Some of these no-flush items are obvious; others may never have entered your mind when instructing your kids on how to save marine life and prevent costly plumbing repairs.
Paper towels may look like a thicker version of TP, but they do not share the same characteristics and do not disintegrate easily down the sewer line, while cosmetic wipes have become one of the worst problems in modern sanitary systems. Cosmetic wipes do not dissolve in water and have a very negative impact on the sewage treatment process, so no matter how disgustingly ugly and full of makeup and mascara they are, toss them in the garbage, not the toilet. These are only the poor stepchildren, however, of baby wipes, which don’t break down like toilet tissue. Baby wipes are not decomposable, so they shouldn’t be flushed, along with anything diaper or diaper-related. Even tissues are not easily broken down.
While the nation’s plumbing system respects family planning, condoms are not biodegradable and are not meant to wind up in public waterways. And feminine hygiene products have long been known to occupy the no-flush zone. They rapidly obstruct the pipes. Instead, wrap your tampons or pads and put them in a small sanitary bag and then dump them in the trash can. Cotton swabs should also be trashed, not flushed.
Bet you didn’t know this one: dental floss is usually made of Teflon or nylon. When flushed down, it mixes with wet wipes, paper towels, hair and other items, creating huge balls that will clog pumps and sewers. throwing that innocent-looking piece of floss into a toilet has the potential to create a plumbing bill.
The article’s research included mentioning how approximately 125 million people use contact lenses on a daily basis worldwide, and billions of daily contacts go down the toilet every year. But used lenses contribute to the creation of trillions of microplastics, one of the major environmental concerns in today’s world.
“Expired medication or recently used pharmaceuticals should never be flushed down the toilet because they will contaminate the wastewater even more,” says the article. “Ultimately, it will have a toxic impact on the water resources and the water you drink. So, if you’ve got pills, sedatives, antibiotics, antidepressants, painkillers, and other drugs that you want to get rid of, just pour them into a bag, close it, and throw it in the garbage.” The list goes on and on — cigarette butts, hair, chewing gum, food, cooking grease and oil, bleach, bandaids, paint, and cat litter, along with Fifi’s waste.
We may have the most advanced sewer system here in the U.S. since ancient times, but no sewage system is perfect. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 27 percent of the global population (around 1.9 billion people) use private sanitation facilities connected to sewers from which wastewater is treated. So treat your toilet like a loyal friend instead of an afterthought, and you will be doing yourself, your plumbing, the environment, and your pocketbook a favor.
Source: SurferToday, TBWS