Coronavirus: Water firms issue blockage warning as people use toilet paper ‘alternatives’

'Whatever you flush down the toilet can end up polluting our rivers and blocking our sewers'

Kate Ng
Thursday 19 March 2020 14:42
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Coronavirus: All you need to know about self-isolation

Water firms, environmental agencies and city authorities in the UK, US and Australia have issued warnings against flushing alternatives to toilet paper as wet wipes and paper towels could lead to blockages in the sewers.

Companies launched social media campaigns advising people to only flush toilet paper, or if no other options are available, to dispose of any alternatives in the bin.

The warning comes as panic buying sweeps through the countries, clearing supermarket shelves of staples including toilet paper as people over-prepare for self isolation and quarantine.

The coronavirus pandemic prompted governments around the world to implement lockdowns and encourage people to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel.

Sydney Water reminded people only to flush the “Three P’S” – “pee, poo and (toilet) paper” in a tweet.

The firm said: “Given the current toilet paper shortages, we’re here to remind you that there are some things you can’t flush. Tissues, paper towel or even ‘flushable’ wipes don’t break down like toilet paper does and can lead to blockages in our system.”

The UK’s Rivers Trust, a group of environmental charities that protects river environments, said: “You might be finding it harder than usual to buy toilet paper amidst the coronavirus-induced panic buying – but please don’t be tempted by the alternatives!

“Whatever you flush down the toilet can end up polluting our rivers and blocking our sewers. #thinkbeforeyouflush”

Thames Water posted on Facebook: “We’re reminding everyone to help us by not flushing wet wipes/kitchen roll down their toilets if they’re affected by a toilet paper shortage or simply want to get rid of used wipes and other cleaning products from their homes.

“Instead, they should be thrown in the bin. Thank you.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also weighed in, advising Americans that wet wipes and paper towels “are not designed to break down in wastewater”.

“Protect pipes from sewer backups and costly repair by ONLY flushing your waste and toilet paper,” it added.

A clogged sewer pump in Australia. People across the world have been urged to stop stockpiling toilet paper amid concerns over shortages as the coronavirus crisis develops

A graphic included in the US EPA’s campaign also highlighted items such as disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, and cotton, which cannot be flushed down the toilet.

Reassurances from governments around the world regarding supplies of household necessities and food have done little to allay fears over shortages, and people are continuing to panic buy.

Huge queues were seen at the opening of a Costco in Perth on Thursday morning, as lines of shoppers snaked around the building to restock supplies.

According to local news site Community News, one queue was dedicated to purchases of toilet roll inside the bulk buy supermarket

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