Ever heard of a fatberg?
Fatbergs are created when wet wipes flushed down the toilet congeal with fats, oils and grease poured down the kitchen sink and forms a rock-hard mass in the wastewater network.
In Brisbane, Queensland Urban Utilities reported that it removed 360 fatbergs from the sewers in just one year.
Many people mistakenly believe these ‘fatbergs’ can only be found in the sewers, but they can form in any drainage pipe – including the ones in your strata property.
Over recent years wet wipes have surged in consumer popularity, and whilst our cleanliness may have improved, our drainage systems have not. The issue is that wet wipes do not break down like toilet paper, and when they don’t break down the sewage systems do.
Wet wipes have been a major contributor to blockages to sewage pipes in high-rise apartment buildings, requiring significant plumbing bills to rectify the problems caused.
Apartment buildings are designed differently to residential standalone homes and getting access to drains and sewerage lines is problematic in many apartments. If toilet plumbing lines get clogged with newspapers, disposable wipes, and nappies, it is a difficult and expensive issue to fix.
And with more people working from home the prospect of clogged plumbing increases and the problem of raw sewage spills also increases. Due to the difficulty in finding those responsible, the costs typically have to be shared by all owners.
Strata properties like apartments, units and townhouses means that there are more people per relying on a functional sewage system so it must be addressed quickly.
Waste management policies within strata properties should include setting guidelines specific to how waste within a strata community is managed, and at the very least inform property owners and tenants of the physical and financial damage incorrect waste disposal will create for their community.
This issue not only affects owners and the local council infrastructure but also the local environment with creeks, rivers and beaches in the firing line.
To avoid a nasty blocked pipe or clogged up drain we’ve put together a quick guide on what not to flush!
What NOT to flush down drains?
Keep foods kitchen scraps out of the drain. Seeds, eggshells, pasta, they can all cause blockages and clog your pipes as well as the sewer.
The biggest offenders are coffee grounds and tea leaves, which along with your other fruit and veg scraps can all go in the bin, or better, the compost! Use a sink strainer over the plughole, to make sure you catch even the smallest scraps.
Cooking Oils, Grease and Fats
Hot oils and grease quickly cool and congeal in the pipes when poured down the down the drain.
Mixing with other ‘non-flushables’ they create a solid mass in the sewers.
Instead of pouring down the drain you should:
- Wait until the fat has cooled and scrape into the bin
- Wipe greasy pans before washing to get off the excess
- Save excess oil in a container and contact your local council to find out how to recycle it.
Chemicals, Paints and Bleach
These products contain chemicals and toxins which can’t always be removed in water treatment plants. This can contaminate the environment and sometimes even our drinking water.
Always read the label to find out how to safely dispose of your chemical cleaning products. And speak to your local council about how to get rid of leftover paint.
What NOT to flush down the toilet?
Always remember the 3 P’s: The only things that should be flushed down the toilet are Pee, Poo and toilet Paper.
Wet wipes are one of the primary ingredients in a fatberg. They don’t break down the same way toilet paper does and get stuck together by congealing oils and fats in the drain.
Whether they are marketed as flushable or not, never flush any form of wipe down the toilets. That includes cosmetic wipes and cleaning wipes too.
Nappies and Hygiene Products
Just like wet wipes, none of these will breakdown in the sewer, because they are all made to soak up liquid and expand. Once these get into the system they’ll cause major pipe blockages.
All of these items and their packaging belong in the bin. If you don’t have one in your bathroom, consider bringing one in to help promote your household throwing it away and not flushing it.
Hair and Dental Floss
Anything that can tangle needs to go in the bin. Hair and dental floss can both wrap around other objects the drain and cause bigger blockages. Dental floss is especially harmful as it’s made from nylon and doesn’t breakdown.
Medicines and Pharmaceuticals
Never flush pills or tablets down the toilet (no matter what they do in the movies). Water processing plants struggle to filter the medicinal contents out and so they stay in the water and contaminate rivers and waterways. This can not only harm plants and wildlife, but it also means they can find their way back into our drinking water.