‘Bin it – don’t block it’ is a Thames Water campaign to educate people about ‘sewer abuse’. The campaign is aimed at stopping people from flushing items down their toilets and sinks which may lead to blockages. Sewer abuse is essentially about disposing of anything other than human waste or toilet tissue down your drains.
Information c/o Thames Water (www.thameswater.co.uk)
The biggest no-no is pouring cooking fat down the sink as it sets hard, forming ‘fatberg’ blockages. This prevents sewage from flowing and can cause it to back up, especially when other unsuitable products such as wet wipes and sanitary items mix with the fat, leading to waste backing up into homes and streets, and having a devastating impact on the environment.
To flush, or not to flush?
The drains connected to your home were not designed to cope with anything other than wastewater, toilet tissue and human waste.
Even the products labelled ‘flushable’ do not break down in the sewer. Flushing them could block your internal plumbing or the main sewer, causing sewage to back-up.
Our message is simple, if it’s not water, toilet tissue or poo, please… bin it – don’t block it.
What the drainage industry is doing to help
Thousands of unsuitable products are washed down the drain each year contributing to around 55,000 blockages across the Thames Water supply area.
This is made worse by confusing and misleading product labelling, which encourages customers to flush unsuitable items, particularly toddler wipes and sanitary items. Although these items disappear when you flush your loo, they can take a number of years to break down. There are currently no restrictions in place to prevent these products being sold as ‘flushable’.
The only product to pass water industry ‘flushability’ tests so far is toilet paper. Manufacturers have their own tests, which are more lenient resulting in a greater number of products being labelled ‘flushable’.
To resolve this, the water industry and manufacturers are working together to develop a shared protocol. This project is also hoping to influence product labelling.
The sewer system is only designed to carry wastewater, human waste and toilet paper.
Any other items put into the pipe can get stuck, resulting in blockages and, in the worst cases, sewage backing up into homes, gardens and streets.
Blocked drains are most commonly a result of unsuitable products, such as cooking fat, wet wipes and sanitary products, building up in the pipes. Blockages in household pipes can be particularly nasty, stopping wastewater from leaving your property.
If you find it difficult to flush your toilet or notice that water drains away very slowly, this could be a sign of a blockage.
When wastewater is unable to flow away it can come back up from the toilet or sink, flooding your home.
What causes blockages?
Sewers are only designed to take away wastewater, toilet tissue and human waste. All other paper products, including kitchen roll and wet wipes, should be put in the bin. Most blockages are caused by cooking fat and oil, which congeal in the sewers, forming a thick layer around the pipe. This prevents sewage from flowing and can cause it to back up. Wet wipes and sanitary items also contribute to some of the most troublesome blockages.
Top tips to keep your drains flowing
• Love your loo: Make sure that only wastewater, toilet tissue and human waste goes down your drains and into the sewer.
• Bin it – don’t block it: Wrap up sanitary products, nappies, wet wipes and condoms and put them in the bin.
• Think – not in the sink! After cooking, fat, oil and grease should be left to cool – it can then be put in the bin or mixed with seeds and nuts to make a feeder for birds.
• Chemicals, solvents, engine oil and paint should be taken to your local refuse site.
• Medicines, tablets, syringes and needles should be taken to your pharmacist, local hospital or health authority for safe disposal.
Please note that where sewer abuse has taken place the blockages are much harder to clear, if there has been sewer abuse to drains which we are instructed to work on the may be additional charges, these can only be identified once an engineer has attended site.