Disposable personal sanitary products make our lives easier and more convenient. However, each year, 2 billion of them are flushed down the toilet causing damage both to the sewer systems and to the environment.
It’s an area of waste disposal which has been difficult to deal with because of its personal nature: so here we are to raise the delicate subject of Sanitary Related Debris or as the industry calls it, SRD.
Don’t Flush It!
Partly through ignorance and partly through an embarrassment of what to do with used products, many people treat their bathroom toilet as a waste disposal unit for such toilet-related items.
However, the sewers were only designed to carry human waste, toilet paper and water – they are not able to cope with other forms of rubbish and any products other than these, cause many problems.
Bigger items such as tampons and sanitary towels block pipes, pumps, and screens in sewage works and when this happens the sewage can flood into the surrounding environment or get carried down a combination outlet or storm water drain where it can end up in the open sea.
Cotton Buds And The Coastline
Water companies estimate that 75% of blockages occur due to these types of product and millions of pounds are spent each year dealing with this most common problem.
However, other objects, such as cotton buds, are little enough to bi-pass the screening process in the treatment works and end up littering our coastline. In 2007, the Marine Conservation Society found over 16,000 plastic cotton bud sticks over 354 beaches during its Beachwatch survey in 2007.
Damage To The Environment
Sanitary Related Debris (SRD). Which has been flushed down the loo often ends up on beaches, in our waterways, riverbanks, and seas where they not only look distasteful but where they can also do serious harm to the wildlife.
Turtles, fish and seabirds often confuse bits of plastic from these products as either food or as nesting material and have been observed trying to feed them to their young. They have also been found washed up with pieces of SRD in their stomachs.
But it is not only sea creatures who suffer. Swimming in water littered with used sanitary products is obviously also a serious health-hazard for humans as well. And how would you like your toddler to be crawling in sand with hidden razor blades in it?
Bag It And Bin It
That’s why, in 2001 the ‘Bag It and Bin It’ campaign was launched by the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, South West Water and other concerned parties who wish to see our beaches and waterways return to pristine conditions.
The message is simple – don’t flush it, but place in a bag and put it in the bin!
Think Before You Flush
This summer the campaign has seen a significant breakthrough in being able to persuade ten leading retailers to re-design their packaging for cotton buds to advertise a ‘Think before You Flush’ slogan to make it clear to consumers that the product should not be flushed down the lavatory.
This means that M&S, Tesco, Asda, The Co-op, Waitrose, and The Body Shop will all be introducing this message on their products in the near future.
There is also a further initiative underway to replace plastic cotton bud sticks with biodegradable cardboard to help waste disposal.
Items That Should Not Be Flushed:
So, now you know. Think before you flush and make sure you have binned and bagged the following products:
- Tampons and tampon applicators
- Sanitary pads, panty liners, and backing strips
- Incontinence pads, Maternity pads, Nappies
- Condoms and Femidoms
- Cotton Buds, Cotton wool, facial wipes, dental floss or similar
- Razor blades, Needles, and syringes
- Medicines, plasters, bandages or similar
- Any other product