Toilet used as guilt-free rubbish bin

Jun 28, 2007

Bizarre items flushed down the toilet are blocking sewage pipes and spoiling beaches.

Research from Keep Britain Tidy released today revealed that objects including rope, wood, razor blades, cigarette stubs and sanitary products have been flushed down the nation’s lavatories.

When ‘foreign’ household waste reaches the sewerage plant it can block filter screens, and if there is heavy rainfall, waste may be washed into overflow pipes and end up in rivers or the sea. Not only does this pose a potentially fatal threat to wildlife, but it can also wash up onto beaches littering the country’s shores.

“The study showed that many people falsely believe our sewerage system is more robust than European counterparts, so they flush anything down the toilet without thinking about the consequences,” said Alan Woods, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy.

“Items like sanitary products, condoms and facial wipes belong in the bin and should not be flushed down the toilet.”

Over half the population admitted to flushing items down the toilet instead of putting them in the bin last year. They confessed to an array of reasons why: 17% of people are embarrassed about putting things like sanitary products and condoms in a bin, hygiene was an issue for 47% of people, 22% are concerned about the smell of ‘messy’ items such as nappies and were worried that their children may get hold of those things from the bin. Most said they do not feel guilty about their flushing habits and just see it as a convenient way to dispose of difficult items.

Barrie Clarke, Director of Communication at Water UK said: “A blocked toilet isn’t at all funny and a blocked sewer is even worse if the neighbours are affected. It’s definitely in everyone’s interests to use the loo for its real purpose. The message is: Think before your flush.

“Water and sewerage companies have spent an estimated £25 billion since privatisation in 1989 on water quality and environmental programs including improving the sewerage system in England and Wales.”

Each year councils are spending £14 million to clear our beaches of rubbish – and while most rubbish doesn’t come from what is flushed down toilets, some of it does.

The full research into this report can be found at

Keep Britain Tidy is the anti-litter campaign run by ENCAMS, an independent charity. It is also responsible for the Blue Flag beach awards in England, Quality Coast Award and environmental education programme Eco-Schools.

Further information:
Water UK head office
Sarah Wilson (Communications Adviser)
1 Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1H 9BT
Tel: +44 (0)20 7344 1844
Fax: +44 (0)20 7344 1866

More News and Articles


Water UK



To website