'Don't flush' video aimed at saving waterways

22 May 2017

A video that promotes a ‘don’t flush’ message about what can’t go down toilets has been launched by the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (FGC) and Water New Zealand.

Entitled ‘Avoid a flood – think before you flush’, it’s being distributed as part of waterways brochures to schools and via social media.

FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich says a lot of things get flushed down toilets that shouldn’t – such as make-up wipes, paper towels, baby wipes and tissues.

“This animated video reminds us in a simple way that everything we flush will find its way into a wastewater treatment plant and then to oceans, rivers, or on to the land, and can cause blockages that overflow to rivers and streams.

“We need to be treating our waterways with much more care, and we hope this video will help spread the word.”

FGC has been working on the issue since 2015, when it partnered with Water NZ to form the Wet Wipes Advisory Group, consisting of member companies from FGC and Water NZ. FGC also approached the Master Plumbers Association to gain an understanding of the problem.

“The plumbers told us how flushed matter can get caught on either tree roots that have grown through clay pipes used in older housing or on the joins of clay pipes. It was very interesting to hear what some people will try to flush – anything from babies’ nappies and sanitary protection, to coffee grounds and kitty litter.

“We learned that when non-flushable wipes are flushed down the toilet, they don’t break up in the same way toilet paper does, and they get snagged on pipes and in pumps and clog sewers and cause major problems.

“Not only do these blockages kill fish and eels, but unclogging them costs householders and ratepayers a lot of money.

“It’s not just wipes and other products from home. Commercial buildings, including hospitals, also contribute to the problem. A visual review of products caught in the screening process by Auckland’s Watercare revealed that of 150 items, some 91 were commercial wipes.

“Companies that make wipes have now reviewed their messages on packs about usage – both flushable and non-flushable – to make sure they are as clear and informative as possible.   

“Working with the water industry enables the grocery industry to provide information to all parties about what the real issue is – people flushing products which should be put in the rubbish bin – and this video is one way of communicating that to consumers.” 

View the video on FGC’s YouTube channel