The toilet is a magical trash can. Simply toss, flush, and your garbage is marvelously whooshed away to some watery subterranean netherworld, never to be seen again. Or so we like to think. In fact, such practices clog toilets, damage water treatment facilities, necessitate expensive cleanups, increase water bills, create raw sewage overflows, harm marine animals and create toxic environmental issues.
With that in mind, here are the things that often end up in the sewer system — none of which have any business being there.
Baby wipes: Although these may be used to wipe your baby’s bottom, they are not toilet paper. Baby wipes are thicker, sturdier, and do not break down easily, resulting in clogged systems. The same goes for wipes marketed towards adults. Even ones labeled “flushable” are better off in the trash instead of down the toilet. Just because it’s flushable doesn’t mean you have to.
Band-Aids: Made of non-biodegradable materials, they easily tangle up with hair and fat to create blockages.
Cat litter: Scoopable and flushable cat litter sounds sensible, but in reality, it causes problems. Flushing litter and feces down the hatch not only causes plumbing problems, but it’s possible that a parasite found in cat feces is killing sea otters and seals — and it could be coming from flushed cat waste.
Chewing gum: Flushing what is basically an adhesive down the toilet is not a sound practice, for obvious reasons.
Cigarette butts: Although they seem flushable, cigarette filters don’t easily biodegrade and they are filled with chemicals, which leach into the wastewater.
Condoms: Easy to flush, but not so easy on the sewer system. Condoms can inflate like balloons and cause fairly destructive obstructions.
Contact lenses: While tiny in size, these lenses are made of plastics that aren’t biodegradable. A study estimates that 50,000 pounds of lenses end up down the drain instead of being thrown away in the trash or recycled. Bausch & Lomb offers a recycling program where you can either drop off used lenses at one of the 2,000 participating doctor’s offices across the nation or mail them to the company.
Cosmetics: Your old moisturizer and other beauty care products can be potentially toxic and disruptive to wastewater treatment plants and septic systems.
Cotton balls and swabs: Cotton doesn’t break down easily, and although it may take a while for cotton products to accumulate into a clog, they are difficult to dislodge once they do.