Marine plastic pollution is damaging the health of our oceans. From plankton to pilot whales, algae to albatross — no ocean life remains free from the effects of plastic waste … it’s even found in the seafood we eat.

Here in the UK, millions of people are flushing single-use plastic down the toilet in the form of wipes, sanitary products and other bathroom products like cotton buds and tooth-flossers. With a growing population and growth in the number of products likely to be flushed, combined with increasing marketing spends from manufacturers and cosmetics industry, we are witnessing an increasing strain on the sewer network and a steady rise in the amount of sewage-related debris on our riverbanks and coastlines.

Flushed plastics make up around 7% of beach litter in the UK, and that figure keeps on climbing each year. Here at City to Sea we’re working hard to reverse that trend and help connect our actions to our oceans, from bog to beach!

Building on the success of our Switch the Stick campaign, we’re now focusing on these throughout 2017 …

Wet Wipes

Plastic pollution and littering from flushed wipes is on the rise – last year the Marine Conservation Society recorded over 14 wet wipes were found per 100 metres of coastline, a rise of 700% over the last decade. And in April this year, over 4,500 wet wipes were found on one 154m sq patch of foreshore.

Many wet wipes contain plastic and don’t break down. Once flushed, they clog up our pipes and sewers, forming giant ‘fatbergs’. (We hope you’re not eating your supper whilst reading this). Then, because they’re full of wipes, our sewage systems overflow and we get spills into our waterways and seas – meaning lots of other plastics get flushed into our environment.

The whole issue is a messy one. Hence we’re not running a petition at this stage but are raising awareness about not flushing wipes down the loo. EDANA, the trade body for wipes in Europe, have their own ‘flushability guidelines’, but those don’t meet the our UK water companies guidelines. Changes are happening – supermarkets are phasing out plastic from their ‘flushable’ wipes, EDANA are bringing forth better labelling – and later this year the new UK guidelines will be in place, which will give people like us something to make sure manufacturers and EDANA agree to follow. It’s a work in progress … so for now we’re just spreading awareness of the mess they’re making of our sewers, rivers and seas!

Our film, #DontBelievetheWipe, was launched in June 2017 and reached over 300,000 people in its first week. Watch it here.

Disposable Menstrual Products

Here in the UK we use a whopping 4.3 billion disposable sanitary products every year – creating a vast amount of unrecyclable waste. It’s estimated that in the UK about 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every day. As with wet wipes, these block drains and sewer pipes, costing the UK £88 million a year – a cost we pick up through our water bills.

Plastic applicators are being found on our beaches in their thousands, and most tampons contain plastic. The average pad contains approximately the same amount of slow-to-degrade plastic as four carrier bags! So what can we do about it?

Rethink: Our toilet is not a bin. Remember the 3Ps, only pee, paper and poo goes down the loo! 
Reuse:
The time has never been better to find a reusable menstrual product to suit you and your flow. Check out some of your options here. Or here
Reeducate:
Teach menstruators the true impact of their periods and empower them with choices.

Our first film launches late July, to raise awareness of the issue and inspire people to switch to reusables. We’re also running a pilot in schools to disrupt the current education bias of billion-pounds brands like Always and Tampax dominating period education. If you would like to get involved, either as a peer group participant (aged 10-14) or as a teacher, we’d love to hear from you. Please email livvy(at)citytosea.org.uk for more info!

So there we have it. Let’s make flushing plastic a thing of the passssssst. 

Read more about waste and menstrual products from our friends at Eunomia here.