Toilets can be a convenient place to dispose of a small item of trash, such as a contact lens or a piece of floss. But according to a report by Time, most of the things people flush should not be disposed of through the porcelain throne. And experts are saying it is contributing to the pollution problem.
The small pieces of plastic from contact lenses, in particular, are thought to be causing an increase in microplastic pollution, tiny pieces of plastic materials that can impact the health of ocean wildlife. Disposing of medications down the toilet or drain has led to pharmaceuticals being found in our drinking water. The consequences of such second-hand consumption are not yet known.
And there’s the matter of financial waste as well. Flushing tampons, diapers, large wipes and other items too large to properly clear the drain leads to billions of dollars every year being spent on maintenance and repairs. Talk about flushing your money down the toilet!
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to discern what is and isn’t flushable. Some products, such as large wet wipes, claim to be safe to send down the drain but in reality, they are hazardous for the environment, containing rayon or viscose.
Your toilet isn’t a garbage can https://t.co/LV6rS344g7
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 27, 2018
Dental floss seems harmless but is made of Teflon or nylon, making it surprisingly strong. Rob Villée, executive director of the Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority in Middlesex, N.J., explained to Time that floss can cause quite a mess.
“It seems like, ‘Oh, it’s just a little string,’ but it tends to wrap things up. It’ll collect other things and make kind of a big wad of stuff. It’s incredibly strong.”
Tampons are another item generally believed to be safe to flush, but in addition to causing clogs, the materials used both in the tampon itself and the string may not easily break down. Playtex now advises customers on its website to wrap used tampons in toilet paper and dispose of them in a wastebasket or designated receptacle. Condoms should never be flushed and always thrown into an appropriate bin after a single use.
So-called flushable kitty litter can seem like a great idea for cat owners, saving on the need to bag the waste scooped from litter boxes. In reality, it’s another product that should never be flushed, no matter what the bag tells you. It has the capability of expanding 60,000 times its original size and can create a potentially pricey toilet disaster.
But tissues and paper towels must be safe, right? They’re almost like toilet paper, just thicker. And cotton swabs are so tiny they seem to float right through the drain with ease. Despite how they flush, they do not break down as quickly as toilet paper, which generally dissolves within 1 to 4 minutes. Instead, these items are treated with a chemical binder that keeps them from breaking apart and the extra time it takes for them to dissolve could put you in the market for an emergency plumber.
Sometimes we don’t have the time or ability to research if something is safe to flush or not. When there are questions, it’s best to throw the item in the wastebasket instead of flushing it. Keeping the toilet for human waste and toilet paper only can save a lot of time, money, and strain on the environment.