City reminds residents: Don’t flush wipes and other cleaning items

Published on April 09, 2020

No Wipe in the Pipes campaign logo

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City of Grand Rapids is reminding residents that cleaning wipes and other disinfecting items labeled disposable or flushable don’t belong down the toilet. The reminder comes as community members continue to take steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Cleaning wipes – even those labeled flushable and disposable – don’t always break down in the sewer system and can cause sewage backups and costly cleanups. They also have negative environmental and public health consequences.

“We’re seeing increased waste in the pipes as residents do their best to sanitize and clean more often,” said Nicole Pasch, the City’s acting assistant environmental services manager. “During this time, we need to remember how important the sewer system is for public health. That’s why we’re reminding the community to throw wipes in the trash instead of flush them down the toilet at home or the workplace.”

Bottom line: Toilet paper is the only thing that should be flushed. That means you shouldn’t put the following commonly flushed items down the toilet:

Wipes of any kind – even those labeled flushable and disposable, including baby, hygienic, cleaning and disinfectant

  • Toilet bowl scrubbers
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towel
  • Diapers – cloth, disposable and "flushable"
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Facial tissue
  • Personal protection equipment such as masks and gloves
  • Grease
  • Trash
  • Coffee grounds

Just because the package says “flushable” doesn't mean it should not be flushed – only that it will go through your toilet, Pasch said.

“Many items marked as disposable or flushable do not degrade like toilet paper,” she said. “They can clog pipes and pumps and cause sewer backups into streets, businesses and homes, resulting in costly cleanups and unwanted environmental consequences. The system is designed to move and treat normal human waste and toilet paper. Anything that is not human waste must be removed before treatment or with increased treatment, and that carries a cost. Don’t rush to flush.”

Sewage collection systems rely on gravity and water flow to move wastewater from homes and businesses to the City’s Water Resource Recovery Facility for treatment and disinfection. Along the way, lift stations are used to pump wastewater from lower to higher elevations. Wipes can cause clogs in these pumps, diverting staff time and resources to clear the clogs and cause larger issues such as backups and equipment malfunctions.

The City offers these tips:

  • Don’t flush anything other than toilet paper
  • Throw away all other items
  • Make sure those who clean your house or business know proper disposal methods
  • Use cleaning supplies you can wash and reuse

For more information, CLICK HERE.

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