Environmental Tips

1. Proper Grease Disposal

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #1 about proper grease disposal We need your help.  If cooking oil, kitchen grease or fat from poultry and meat goes down the drain, it can collect in pipes and cause sewer backups, basement flooding, or sewage spills to the environment.  Costly clean up work can raise the sewer use rate in your bill.

What can you do to help?

  • Cool down cooking oil, grease and fat. Carefully pour into sturdy, sealed container.
  • To help solidify oils, add absorbent material such as cat litter or coffee grounds.
  • When full, put sealed container in the garbage with regular household waste.
  • Use paper towel to wipe out greasy pots and pans. Put paper towel in the garbage.
  • Scrape grease and food scraps from plates and put in with garbage.



















2. Proper Medicine Disposal

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #2 about proper medicine disposal Don't rush to flush! Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP's) include prescription drugs, over the counter medications and cosmetics. They can pass through wastewater treatment plants in small amounts and find their way into rivers and lakes. Controlling what goes down the drain helps to protect our environment and quality of life.

What can you do to help?

Properly dispose of your expired or unused medicine

Don't flush PPCP's down the toilet!

There are better ways to dispose of your unused medicine:

  • Find a local pharmacy that participates in the West Michigan "Take Back Meds" program.
  • For both solids (pills) and liquids, scratch out or black out the patient's name and address before taking it to the participating pharmacy. The pharmacy must be able to see the medication type so they can properly sort it.

Turn in controlled substances

  • Controlled Substances and medications must be taken to a participating local law enforcement station. They can be deposited into the secured drop off box located in the lobby area.












3. No Wipes in the Pipes

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #3 about disposable versus flushable productsWipes such as baby, hygienic, cleaning and disinfectant, toilet bowl scrubbers and paper towels labeled as disposable shoudn't go down the drain. These products don't break down in the sewer system, causing clogs and resulting in sewage backups, costly cleanups and environmental issues that can result in sewer rate increases.

What you can do to help,

  • Don't flush objects down the toilet such as wipes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, or dental floss.
  • Dispose of these items in a trash receptacle instead.
  • Inform those who clean your house or business of proper disposal methods for convenience products.
  • Use cleaning supplies that you can washed and reuse.

Flushable? Think again.

Just because the package says "flushable" doesn't mean it's true.  Many items marked as disposable and/or flushable do not degrade like toilet paper. They can clog pipes and pumps and cause sewer backups into streets, businesses and homes.

Examples of what NOT to flush:

  • Wipes of any kind (even those advertised as "flushable")
  • Diapers (cloth, disposable, "flushable")
  • Paper towels
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Facial tissues

What should you do?

Place them in the garbage. Use old t-shirts or other cloth rags for cleaning. These can then be washed and reused.





4. Rain Water is not Wastewater

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #4 about rain water versus wastewater

Drain the rain


It is illegal to pump ground water or rain water into the sanitary sewer system. Ground water from your footing drain (or other sources) must go to the storm water sewer system or back to the environment.

During wet weather, illegal connections can allow ground water to overload the collection system. This can cause sewage to backup in homes and increases the cost of treating wastewater.

What can you do to help?

  • Redirect your sump pump discharge to the storm water sewer system or to an outside area for natural drainage
  • Slope your landscape downhill, away from the foundation of your house. Place extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from your house, as well as your neighbor's
  • Plant a rain garden to absorb the rain water and beautify your yard
  • Use a rain barrel to capture and reuse the rain water














5. Report It, Don't Ignore It

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #5 about reporting illegal dumping into storm drains Environmental issues or questionable practices need to be reported. You can also call us at 311 to report any environmental issues or questionable environmental practices.  If you see anyone dumping anything into a storm drain, roadside curb, or the ground, report it.

What can you do to help?

  • Clean debris from storm drains in all seasons.
  • Never dump grass clippings, vehicle fluids, animal wastes, or anything down a storm drain.
  • No one should ever discharge into a manhole. If you see these activities notify us immediately.
  • Dispose of unwanted paints, solvents, and cleaners at your county household hazardous waste collection center. Pollution can be any type of waste or chemicals that are dangerous to people and the environment.



















6. Maintain the Drain

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #6 about the hard work of the environmental services staff and the work they do Without a doubt you can help out. A stormwater catch basin is usually located near the curb at the low point of the street. Catch basins capture pollutants before they enter the storm water system. When properly cleaned they can be quite effective at performing that task. However, once they are clogged with dirt and debris, they lose their ability to capture contaminates and divert the stormwater properly. The largest source of water pollution today is contaminated storm runoff from paved areas. In Grand Rapids it takes rain 15 to 30 minute from your driveway to reach the Grand River, then it's on to Lake Michigan.

What can you do to help?

  • Adopt a Catch Basin. Bonus! You'll earn GR City Points
  • Do not rake or blow leaves or grass clipping from your yard into the street
  • Dispose of all waste (including pet waste) in trash receptacles instead of sweeping it into the gutters or catch basins
  • Place motor oil, paint, and antifreeze in separate sturdy containers and recycle them at a local disposal facility















7. We Never Close

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #7 about keeping stormwater catch basins clear of debris The Grand Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Employees work around the clock to clean an average of 49 million gallons of waste water a day. They respond to environmental emergencies and protect our waters. The underground collection system includes more than 1,000 miles of maintained sewer pipe servicing over 262,000 people.

What can you do to help?

  • Do not flush foreign objects down the toilet
  • Practice proper disposal methods of household hazardous waste.
  • Get involved in resource conservation efforts.
  • Become environmentally responsible.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible.




















8. Water Conservation

Image of Environmental Tips pamphlet #8 about water conservation Every drop counts. Resource conservation starts at home. Water is our most important precious resource. A dripping faucet can waste 100 gallons a day. By fixing leaking gaskets and installing low flow shower heads, you can make a difference. You will save water and not use energy to heat it. Those savings trickle down the pipe to those who pump and clean the water, conserving more energy and labor costs. When you save water, you save money.

What can you do to help?

  • Run only full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher.
  • Stop dripping faucets by installing new washers.
  • Add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet's tank. If the toilet needs repair, color will appear in the bowl within 15 minutes. (Flush when you're done since food coloring may stain tank)
  • When replacing appliances, choose water and energy efficient models.