If you have been following my Sewage Adventures in Part One and Two, then you will know that we have discussed the issue of flushable items, in general. One particular item has really made people think and take a stance. We think flushing cloth nappy liners need some clarification.
Some parents and organisations have stated that the flushable liners are safe because:
1. They are biodegradable;
2. There is no current or past scientific research;
3. There are no Australian national standards on flushability;
4. The impact of flushable liners does not significantly add to the other items that are flushed, like baby wipes, tissue or toilet paper.
We have shown that flushable liners do biodegrade, but not fast enough when they enter the sewage treatment plant in Australia (consider information here). Therefore they are washed and removed to go to the tip. This takes more energy and costs councils money when there is a blockage. This directly impacts on our local council rates and our environment. In Part 2 of My Sewage Adventures we showed that local councils are educating the community not to flush these items.
After working many years in scientific research, we know that just because there are no national standards or scientific research does not mean there is not an issue. At Apikali we want to make a statement, we want to educate our community and this is what we have to say about nappy liners. Toilets are meant to only flush poo, wee and vomit. In some countries you cannot even flush toilet paper (this is a fun read) and have standards on the flushability of items. Some countries even have testing of products (this is a step forward). These are exciting steps forward.
If we are using cloth nappies to decrease our footprints, we can do even better by reducing or completely stopping our use of disposable cloth nappy liners. Every small change we can make, is for the better of our earth, community and budgets.
What are some Best Practices we could suggest? There are a range depending upon your liner usage preference:
1) Flush only poo-ey nappy liners, reuse the wee ones. Give the wee ones a wash and reuse. Put the wee ones in the bin at the end of their life. That means we can cut down the flushing of all liners by up to 90% (assuming baby poos once a day with 10 changes).
2) Use reusable liners, like microfleece or over-locked cotton or Epibi. Wash off any poo into a bucket and flush down the toilet. This will save your budget greatly. Never run out of liners again, just like you won’t run out of disposables nappies.
3) Don’t use liners, and make great use of that Little Squirt.
4) We will be supporting brands that do not suggest that the items are entirely flushable. Biodegradable, absolutely.
In summary, just because there are no guidelines or research, does not mean we should do nothing. We can easily save money and think before flushing. Every small change we make, helps our earth, our community. The majority of environmental movements start at the community level. Let’s start one today
Dr Tennille Graham, Dr Sally Harvey and Ms Trudy Knox.