In the UK waste water treatment requires us to flush only toilet paper. Toilet paper (so labelled) in the UK is specially designed to disintegrate upon contact with water and to do so quickly and completely. This then helps with waste processing at the other end.
We have long and complicated water treatment processes because a lot of water is returned to rivers and to beaches, but it must be returned ‘clean’ because our high population density means that a lot of people use rivers and streams for recreational purposes, and we also take drinking water from rivers as well as groundwater, lakes and reservoirs. So, it’s important that waste processes are helped to work properly to avoid problems later.
THE ONLY THINGS THAT SHOULD BE FLUSHED DOWN A UK TOILET PAPER ARE URINE, FAECES (obviously vomit when required) AND TOILET PAPER.
NEVER sanitary products (sanitary towels, tampons etc.)
NEVER wet wipes of any kind
Tissues is a surprising one because many certainly do disintegrate when wet, but they are usually designed for that effect not to be immediate, which is why using a tissue to blow your nose is better than using toilet paper.
But what makes tissues good as tissues, makes them liable to block a toilet if you flush them. Wet wipes are also the same.
MANY products in the UK will claim that they are ‘flushable’ on packaging, but if you look at the materials issued by water companies up and down the UK, all of them state the above: hat only toilet paper and urine/faeces are meant to be flushed down toilets.
Many even ask not to flush animal faeces either because of the microbial loadings and types of pathogens animal faeces can contain.
It gets confusing all the more because even now, plenty of British people do not know these things, and provide poor advice. However, the consequences are clear: water companies every day charge households for blockages they cause that can be traced back to them and the common culprits are wet wipes, female period products, and wet wipes.
In other words, a lot of ‘flushable’ items might only be ‘flushable’ for a certain distance, until they snag and build up a blockage somewhere else, usually causing ‘backing up’ further down the line.
Emily Parkes (BSc. PhD.) Guest Author
Emily has a BSc Environmental Science, and a PhD in Electronic & Electrical Engineering.
You can find her academic material under her maiden name, Emily Parry.
Study Links’ own guide to using the toilet in the UK can be found here USING THE TOILET IN THE UK – A GUIDE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS