If toilets could talk, oh the stories they could tell. Those mysterious, swirling portals to the watery world of subterranean sewage have always intrigued and inspired, spawning legends from giant sewer gators flushed as hatchlings to animated tales of mutants living off what surface-dwellers flush away. Most people prefer not to think about what happens to the stuff they flush down the loo. Others—like plumbers, sewer workers, and wastewater treatment personnel—make our societal effluence their business, working to manage the human waste and other detritus that goes down our pipes. The flushed items those workers find are often strange, and in a way more disturbing even than oversized albino alligators, considering that some of the household goods and personal effects accumulating in our waste streams can have a long-lasting and detrimental impact on ecosystems and water supplies.
What People Send Down the Toilet
This summer, The New York Times published a science story outlining objects frequently flushed without a care, but which can be harmful to the environment or waste treatment systems if disposed of via the toilet. When deep-sixed down the commode, medicines can end up in drinking water, contact lenses can contribute to plastic pollution in waterways, and cat litter will seriously mess up your plumbing.
It seems that even those who’ve had indoor plumbing their whole lives regularly need to be reminded that “Toilets Are Not Garbage Cans,” and might benefit from a little refresher course on what can and can’t be flushed in the lavatory. Of the course, the situation probably isn’t helped by (admittedly very entertaining) phenomena like the web series Will It Flush? offered by YouTube Channel Weird Stuff, which tests the flushability of everything from popular toys to various slimes and goos.
We can’t just flush our problems down the toilet, as much as we may want to. So instead, let this chart (hopefully) be your guide the next time you’re wondering: “Can I flush this?”