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Don’t Flush It! What Not to Flush Down the Loo

Did you know that you really shouldn’t flush anything other than (the obvious and) toilet paper down the loo?

I was rather shocked when my housemates revealed that, out of convenience, they flush away all sorts. Naively I’d thought that everyone knew this was a bad idea all round.

Not only can it cause blockages but wet wipes and sanitary products can end up in all sorts of places where they really shouldn’t … like the Thames, as I recently discovered.

Together with Dettol and Thames 21, I attended a beach clean to raise awareness of the plastic that is clogging up the Thames. Walking over the Hammersmith Bridge I thought to myself how clean the river banks looked and how, embarrassingly, all these people were about to turn up with nothing to do.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

As soon as we got down to the river, suited and booted (thanks to Thames 21) with wellies, socks, gloves and litter pickers, we were shocked by the number of wet wipes and sanitary towels that literally covered the beach.

Of course we also found the usual suspects – straws and plastic bags – but the worst offenders were by far the items being flushed down the loo and ending up in our sewage systems which, when heavy rain overwhelms the sewers, end up in the river.

In fact there are now so many wet wipes in the Thames that they’re beginning to change the shape of the riverbed, with mounds forming where the wet wipes have accumulated.

From afar the river bank looks normal because the wet wipes are clumped together with twigs and mud so you can’t really see the size of the issue until you get up close. Hence I’d originally thought that the banks were clean!

The problem is that although wet wipes look to be made entirely from cotton, the fibres are actually bound together by plastics such as polypropylene which means that they’re not biodegradable!

While we need to raise awareness of the issue and discourage people from flushing them down the loo it’s great to see that brands such as Dettol and Simple are producing biodegradable alternatives, made entirely from plant fibres.

Overall, although shocking, it was a great day to learn more about the issue and play my part in cleaning up the Thames. Plus I met Kate Humble who was also there!

Now to speak with my housemates…

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