Does biodegradable mean flushable?
Is anything flushable?
Why should we care?
Such innocent questions. Some unsuspecting thoughts that lead to a s**t storm, literally.
A friend, an advocate and a passionate eco warrior (that’s what I call her) asked me a simple question.
My first thought was, OF COURSE! If it biodegrades, its flushable, it breaks down.
“What is the issue?”, I asked Brooke from EcoParents Australia.
Oh, then she answered and opened a ‘can of worms’, which has now left me in a new state of zen. I feel so much better, informed and empowered. I am feeling a bit more eco-warrior like.
Are you ready to feel the power? To test your beliefs? Mine have been and I am so glad for the change. Its also made us move Apikali to more responsible consciousnesses.
Brooke and I visited the Sandgate Sewage Plant (1,3) as described in Part 1 of my blog series.
A few facts to get us started:
– When you flush it takes 6-12 hours for it to reach the sewage plant.
– ‘Rags’ are the by product of items that possibly should not be flushed and have the potential to cause blockages along the sewage network (4). They are often marketed as biodegradable, therefore flushable (5, 6, 8).
– These Rags are removed from the treatment process at Step 2, after a bit of a rinse at the sewage plant. They are removed and sent to the tip.
– Rags include the following corn cobs, cotton buds, face wipes, nappy liners, condoms, lolly wrappers and apple stickers. See photo below. Please ensure you are not eating your breaky, lunch or dinner.
Now Eco Parents did a fantastic blog on this issue, that is great for further reading.
The non flushable items are those products usually associated with our bodily functions, our nether regions. We are so use to flushing toilet paper, it becomes mushy and disintegrates as it travels along the systems. Rags that take 20 days to biodegrade, don’t break down or apart quickly AND can cause blockages (7,9).
What can WE do? What can YOU do before you flush?
1. Only flush poo, wee, vomit and toilet paper (if the toilet paper is suited to your sewage system). (11).
2. Put all those other items, the Rags, in the bin.
3. If you are using disposable wipes, put them in the bin and not attribute to sewage blockages.
4. If you use cloth nappy liners, flush the poo ones and bin the wee ones, maybe.
Switch to cloth wipes to replace disposable wipes. We made this easy with Swipes, our reusable wipes system. Save money, great for sensitive skin and helps our sewage systems.
Reusable liners instead of disposable cloth nappy liner made from fleece or cotton. Again just rinse and the poo really does just slide off.
Stop using toilet paper. Brooke has done it, I am making the transition. Again, use Swipes.
If the last is a too big a change for you, start small. Don’t flush that ear bud down the toilet, put it in the bin.
How is Apikali moving forward?
We have establish an Apikali No Throw Campaign. You will see this on our cloth nappy washing instructions.
We are moving towards only supporting brands that advise a more responsible approach to flushing and disposal of products, such as WotNot and Bummis.
Continuing to find multiple use products or products that are gentler on our ecosystem AND sewage system for you to use. But also save you money. So stop throwing it down the toilet, literally.
Continuing to educate our community on issues that are on the fringes of national organisations.
So tell me, what do you think? Have I inspired to be a little bit more of an eco warrior? Have I empowered you with some new information? Can you now make a clear conscience decision when flushing?
A big thanks to:
Brooke from EcoParents for having this discussion and not being dissuaded by lack of research and evidence.
Thankyou to QLD Utility for taking the time to really take me to the ‘heart’ of the situation.
Finally, there are a few people I thank for having this discussion with me too, but I am unable to mention.
Sources, further information and references