Why You Should Only Flush the 3Ps and Nothing Else

People have been using toilet paper since the 1850s. With the shortage of toilet paper while most of the nation shelters in place there is concern that some people may be looking for alternatives. According to Autumn Cleave, SFPUC Pollution Prevention Specialist, while it might be tempting to use something other than toilet paper, she has some advice.

“Only the 3 P’s: pee, poop and toilet paper should be flushed,” exclaimed Cleave.

While wet towelettes (flushable wipes) may seem convenient, they don’t biodegrade very quickly and can eventually get stuck in the plumbing somewhere. This can cause a clog that can cost a lot of money to remedy. “If you use wipes, throw it in the trash can and not the toilet,” says Cleave.

Bar screen: a mechanical filter used to remove large objects, such as rags and plastics, from wastewater. It is part of the primary filtration flow and typically is the first, or preliminary, level of filtration, being installed at the influent to a wastewater treatment plant.

Many of us have made lifestyle changes like ditching plastic straws for stainless steel or paper alternatives because it’s better for the environment. This public service announcement is a reminder that wipes and basically anything other than pee, poop and toilet paper is bad for the plumbing system and San Francisco’s sewers.

The BBC series “War on Plastic” mentions that there are microplastics and microfibers in so-called ‘flushable wipes’ and 90% of wet wipes contain plastic. The documentary also explains how these particles are escaping into the ocean. This fact hits close to home and springs everyone into trashing the wet wipes instead of flushing them.

Ask any plumber or SFPUC wastewater crew member who can attest to this: flushable wipes are not flushable.

Flushable wipes being manually removed from wastewater treatment plant equipment.