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Wastewater Treatment & Fatbergs

Wastewater Treatment & Fatbergs

Over the past decade, there has been a significant influx of products marketed as 'flushable'. This trend is straining sewage networks, leading to blockages and overflows that could easily be prevented. 

What can be flushed down the toilet in NZ?

Heres the simple reality, ONLY: 

  • Poo 
  • Pee 
  • and Toilet Paper can be flushed down the toilet.

Although, many people try their luck with other items such as flushable liners, flushable wipes, sanitary products, kitchen paper towels, facial tissues, disposable cleaning wipes, or dental floss.

The term 'flushable' is the bane of existence for wastewater treatment plants. Too many people think because some of these items technically can be 'flushed' that means they are being processed at the other end. In reality these 'flushable' items are causing 'fatbergs' (if they don't make it through our sewage pipes) or being scrapped off the pile (if they do make it through our sewage pipes) and sent to landfill anyway. 

3 FACTS ABOUT NZ SEWAGE STREAMS

FACT 1: Water from your kitchen sink, toilet, bathroom sink, and shower all go into the same sewage system under your house. 

FACT 2: Hot water doesn't flush the pipes out. Yes, it heats the fat up in your frying pan to go down the pipe, but once its in there the pipes are cold and the fat hardens again. 

FACT 3: Our sewage pipes are small in NZ, you can have people running around down there. The smaller pipes means things block up more regularly and create big problems. 

FATBERGS 

IMAGE: A fatberg found in Gisborne's pipes in 2020. (Gisborne District Council/Stuff, 2022).

WHAT IS A FATBERG?

A fatberg is a massive accumulation of solidified fat, held together with non-flushable items like wet wipes, cotton buds, and sanitary products that people wrongly dispose of down the toilet. 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP FATBERGS FROM GROWING? 

The first, best and simplest solution is to NOT flush anything other than poo, pee, toilet paper down the toilet. It's really that simple. 

The second solution we can commit to is telling brands/manufacturers to not claim that their products are 'flushable' because they simply do not break down during the process and ultimately if they get to the wastewater treatment plant they will end up in landfill and cost us as ratepayers to dispose of the waste.

Extra Resources

The Fatberg Epidemic: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/apr/21/huge-10-ton-fatberg-removed-chelsea-sewer-london 

The Truth behind Flushable Wipes: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/flushable-wipes

Flushable Wipes: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/flushable-wipes 

What happens to all the flushed tampons: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/17-05-2018/what-happens-to-all-the-tampons-and-pads-when-they-leave-us

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