Can you flush biodegradable items?
Firstly, “What does biodegradable actually mean?”. Biodegradable refers to materials that can be broken down by bacteria, fungi or by other natural means. It’s generally organic matter that’s decomposed by the environment, feeding microorganisms. Take a banana skin for instance, this can be disposed of onto soil and nature will intervene, turning it into microscopic matter, sending nutrients back into the earth.
The time it takes for the full process of biodegradation, differs for each compound. Items such as, paper towels, apple cores, vary from weeks to a couple months and these biodegradable items are much better for the environment. Opposed to non-biodegradable items, such as disposable nappies, tin cans and plastic bags that can take approximately 20-100 years to biodegrade!
So the question presents itself, can you flush said ‘biodegradable items’?
The answer is, toilet paper is the only biodegradable item that can and should be flushed down the toilet. Toilet roll is especially designed to disintegrate when flushed, helping the sewage systems to flow. It may be surprising to you, but the very misleading “moist towelettes” have caused widespread problems across the nation. These wipes may be biodegradable, but due to their slow biodegradation rate, they cause havoc. Although many items will have the word “flushable” on them, this does not mean that they biodegrade when you flush; simply that they disappear after being flushed and eventually clog the sewage systems. Unfortunately, companies can still call items “flushable” as the term hasn’t been legally clarified and therefore this USP is used to up sales and deceive the masses.
Failure to package products appropriately has resulted in millions of pounds worth of sewage maintenance. Misadvertised items have encouraged people all over the globe to flush all ‘biodegradable’ items, but as you’re now aware; it’s important that if you flush something down the toilet, it must have a fast rate of decomposition.
How do I know if it’s OK to flush?
Do it yourself: If you want to know if you can flush a biodegradable compound, test it. Get a bucket of water and place your “flushable” item inside and mix it with the water for a good minute or so. If it dissolves, you’re good to go. If not, don’t flush it. Use recycling, compost and bins, as a means for disposal. By flushing, you’re causing pollution and adding to an already polluted environment.
The SNAP protocol: The Sewage Network Abuse Partnership, aim to increase the understanding of drainage networks in order to decrease the amount of blockages and environmental pollution caused by misinformation. Hopefully this will enforce the term “flushable” to be defined and undergo the SNAP protocol.
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