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Why you should think about what goes down the drain

It’s easy to forget where everything goes when it disappears down the sink, toilet, shower or bath. However, it’s something that every household needs to consider, as the effects can be much worse than you might think.

Any water and waste from your home makes its journey through the sewerage system before it is treated and either recycled or returned to the rivers and oceans. While treatment plants are tasked with processing all the waste coming through, we all play an integral part and your habits at home can help reduce the overall effect our sewage has on the environment.

According to many utility companies throughout the country, here are a list of common items and waste products that routinely cause issues in the sewerage system:

  • Plastic
  • Paint
  • Fats and oils
  • Food scraps
  • Sanitary products
  • Nappies
  • Pesticide
  • Wet wipes
  • Motor oil
  • Cigarette butts

Wet wipes are the perfect example of how wastewater is taken for granted

Sydney Water has labelled wet wipes as one of the most notorious issues with the wastewater system. As Australia’s largest water utility, they claim the sewers are cleaned out of an estimated 500 tonnes of wet wipes every year — for some perspective, that’s just under 5000 Paul Gallens and roughly 270 Holden Commodores. These wet wipes are sometimes marketed as “flushable”, but often need to be removed to avoid any disastrous overflow into homes or rivers.

These statistics reported by Sydney water point to the danger of flushing wet wipes and many other types of waste.

  • One in four Sydney residents flush wet wipes down the toilet. More than 70% of this group do so thinking they are biodegradable
  • If stuck in your own pipes, removing a wet wipe blockage can cost as much as $1,000
  • Almost three quarters of blocked sewers involve wet wipes
  • The issue is costing an estimated $8 million a year to resolve
  • “Flushable” wipes combine with other harmful waste to form large, obstructive clumps

What you can do to reduce your impact on the sewerage system and the environment

If you want to ensure you are doing your part to help address the issue and take care of our planet, here are some simple but effective ways of controlling what goes down your drains.

  • Put a sink strainer over the plug in your kitchen to stop solids falling down the pipe
  • Start composting your food scraps
  • Wipe oils and fats from dishes with a paper towel — or pour into a sealable container — and put in the rubbish bin
  • Only flush human waste and toilet paper
  • Reduce the amount of detergent you use when washing the dishes
  • Enquire with your local council about safe disposal points for potentially hazardous materials

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