4 Things You Should Never Flush Down the Toilet

Thought it was safe to flush this common household trash? Think again! Here are four things that should be tossed into the garbage can-not flushed down the toilet.

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Flushing toilet
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The problem with flushing trash down the toilet…

“Out of sight, out of mind” has been the mantra of bathroom users ever since 1596, when John Harigton (no, not Thomas Crapper) invented the flushing toilet. But for millions of people around the world, the ubiquitous toilet has become more than just a place to do their, well… Business. It’s a place where any manner of items are disposed when they really belong in the trash can. That indifference can lead to millions of dollars in damages, plugged pipes and contaminated water supplies. Here are four household items that belong in the garbage can-not the toilet.

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Bathroom garbage can
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1. Can you flush tampons down the toilet?

Despite many of us having a garbage can directly beside our toilets, we still insist on flushing much of our garbage down the toilet instead of putting it where it belongs.

These items can become stringy, sticky messes and form clogs that are expensive and time consuming to fix.

The toilet and municipal water system really is only designed to handle three things: pee, poop and toilet paper. Keep that in mind the next time you’re sitting on the porcelain throne or considering using it as a trash can. Tampons, for instance, should not be flushed down the toilet. Neither, for that matter should you flush sanitary pads, dental floss, hair, gum and cotton swabs.

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Baby wipes
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2. Can you flush baby wipes down the toilet?

That package of baby wipes may claim to be “flushable,” but municipalities say they’re anything but. In fact, they’re urging residents to toss both baby wipes and personal hygiene wipes in the trash instead of flushing them down the toilet.

The disposable wipe industry maintains its products are sewer-safe and won’t plug municipal pipes or drains, but there’s mounting evidence that flushed wipes actually bind together and become stronger once they enter the sewer system. Barry Orr, spokesperson for the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group, claims Canadian municipalities spend an estimated $250 million per year to deal with clogged wastewater systems, and much of that is attributed to flushable wipes.

Need more proof? Metro Vancouver has a video on their website of crews removing clogged flushable wipes from their sewer system. Warning: You’ll want to put down your sandwich before you click play. It’s enough to put you off of your lunch…

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Toilet plunger
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3. Can you flush fat, oil or grease?

In 2015, a 10-tonne “fatberg” (think of an iceberg, but gross) was removed from a sewer in Chelsea, West London. The mass of grease and accumulated flushed trash was 40 metres long and burst the pipes, costing the utility £400,000 and taking more than two months to repair.

Where did this fatberg spring from? Well, when when warm fats and grease are dumped down the drain, they cool and harden, sticking to the sides of the pipes and-much like a heart attack-can plug the drains entirely.

The City of Toronto recommends allowing fat or grease to cool and harden before scraping it into your green bin. If you don’t have green bins in your community, you can collect hardened grease in sealed containers and drop it off at a household hazardous waste site. Contact your local municipality for your best disposal option.

Create a Zero-Waste Kitchen in 18 Easy Steps!

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Sewer system
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4. Can you flush expired drugs down the toilet?

Think flushing unused or expired drugs down the toilet is a safe disposal method? Think again. Most of the active ingredients can pass right through municipal water systems and enter our streams, lakes and rivers, wreaking havoc on the environment. Just how widespread is this problem?

In 2014, Environment Canada told a Senate Hearing Committee that 165 different pharmaceuticals and care products had been detected in water samples that year.

The best method for disposing of old or unused medication is to return it to the pharmacy. Alternatively, some municipalities offer take-back programs. If you must throw it in the garbage, remove the pills from the original container and hide it in something unappealing-such as kitty litter or coffee grinds-and place it in a sealed container or bag.

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