Everything that is flushed down our drains contributes to the harming of sea life and polluting of beaches internationally. It also accounts for 7% of the ocean’s plastic count- an ammount rivalling the weight of fish in the ocean! Being aware of what we flush at UEA is vital and Go Green Week is the perfect opportunity to learn about this.
Results from a recent survey reveal the scale of the ecological harm caused without us even knowing. 94% of people in UKDN's survey said they knew what to and not put down their dran. However, the only environmentally friendly items to flush are the three Ps- pee, poo and paper (toilet paper obviously).
10.6% discard their tampons and applicators in the loo and 14.1% of people flush their wet wipes. More surprisingly, 13.1% of people had flushed medicine and 3.9% of people flush recreational substances down the loo too.
These inappropriate items toxify the environment, being eaten by animals, as they are mistaken for food. Flushing them also increases blocking drain risks and the horror of fatbergs:
Fatbergsare comprised of oil, fats, baby wipes and other unflushables. They are on the rise as with 43.5% of people admitted to discarding their sauces in the sink, along with 24.7% pour cooking oil and 22.3% pour meat fat down the drain.
When FOGs (fat oil and greases) are poured down the drain, they harden around non-dissolvent items such as wet wipes, as the temperature changes. The fatberg gets larger and larger as items continue to be flushed. This then stops drain-friendly water and the 3 P’s getting through, risking the chance of overflowing sewage in our cities. Fatbergs can be incredibly costly to the government with the famous Whitechapel fatberg costing the council approximately £9 million and taking 9 weeks to clear- others have weighed over 600 tons! What can students therefore do to stop the bergs?
Put everything other than the 3 P’s in the bin! This includes even the tiniest of things like hair and dental floss!
In the kitchen, make sure you pour any FOGs, sauces and food in the bin before putting your dishes in the sink. Using a plug strainer in your kitchen sink and bath can also minimise the chance of food and hair getting into your pipes.
These tiny lifestyle changes make a huge difference. And by adopting these good habits, you can ensure you are contributing to cleaner oceans, healthier animals and fatberg free drains.
Rob Klim, Ethical Issues Officer.