There has been a lot of publicity in recent months about 'Fatbergs'.
Channel 4's documentary, 'Fatberg Autopsy: Secrets of the Sewers' describes Fatbergs as "a monster blockage of congealed fat, wet wipes, and human waste". Blockages have the potential to lead to a backup of waste costing the UK an estimated £80 million per year to clear.
It seems that too many of us are flushing the wrong things down our toilets. Water companies stress that nothing should be flushed other than toilet paper. This means that cooking oil, baby wipes, nappy liners, tampons and disposable nappies are a complete no-no.
These products floating around down the drains attract fat which, over time, will build up into a huge, solid mass which can completely block our sewers.
Now, we all know that many disposable baby wipes and disposable nappy liners are labelled as 'flushable'. It seems, however, that this needs a complete rethink. Yes, these products are, in the main, flushable ie. they'll successfully flush through your toilet, but the problem occurs once they hit the sewerage system. What the Channel 4 programme suggests is that we need new labelling, indicating whether the products are 'sewer safe'.
So, what can we do?
- use washable baby wipes in place of disposable baby wipes (see our discussion on reusable baby wipes)
- use washable sanitary items in place of disposable tampons and towels (see our discussion on washable menstrual towels)
- when using real nappies, consider using washable nappy liners in place of 'flushable' nappy liners. Saying this, I understand that when you're new to cloth nappies this can all feel a bit messy so here's a guide on how to use 'flushable' nappy liners in the best way:
WET ONLY: place the liner in the bin
SOILED (SOLID): plop it off into the toilet and throw the liner in the bin
SOILED (SLOPPY): place the liner (plus poo) into the bin. You could use a diodegradable bag (maybe putting a few liners in there before throwing away).
As a minimum, we all need to become a lot more conscious of what we're flushing down our toilets: