START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x

What Not To Put Down Your Drain

What Not To Put Down Your Drain

Our trash that goes in the can or recycling is waste we have no choice but to face. Whether it’s hauling the trash cans to the sidewalk, bringing recycling to a center–it’s a mass of garbage that we have to contend with. Liquid waste, on the other hand, simply gets rinsed down the drain and it’s “bye-bye never have to think about you again.” It’s a much more expedient process–one that’s hidden from the eyes of any sanitation departments–and one that can wreak waves of environmental chaos, not to mention what it can do to your pipes. We often don’t realize the harm we are doing by what we rinse down our kitchen sinks, bath and shower drains, and even what we flush down our toilets.

In a study published in 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collected and analyzed water samples from 139 streams in 30 states. The goal of the study was to measure concentrations of 95 wastewater-related organic chemicals in water. And guess what? One or more of these chemicals were found in 80 percent of the streams sampled. Half of the streams contained seven or more of these chemicals, and about one-third of the streams contained 10 or more of these chemicals. Pharmaceutical and personal-care products are to blame for many of the chemicals found in the USGS study. Research has shown that there can be effects on aquatic organisms like fish and frogs. Lesson here: don’t flush unwanted prescriptions and try to purchase all-natural personal care products.

But another area of concern is kitchen waste–namely fats, oils and greases which can not only clog pipes, but are terrible for sewage systems. According to the Watership Environment Foundation (WEF), sewer overflows and backups can cause health hazards, damage home interiors, and threaten the environment. An increasingly common cause of overflows is sewer pipes blocked by grease–this results in raw sewage overflowing in your home or your neighbor’s home; An expensive and unpleasant cleanup that often must be paid for by you, the homeowner; Raw sewage overflowing into parks, yards, and streets; Potential contact with disease-causing organisms; and an increase in operation and maintenance costs for local sewer departments, which causes higher sewer bills for customers.

Where does the grease that causes sewer overflows come from? Much of it from the kitchen sink.

  • Meat fats
  • Lard
  • Cooking oil
  • Shortening
  • Butter and margarine
  • Food scraps
  • Baking goods
  • Sauces
  • Dairy products

Grease sticks to the insides of sewer pipes (both on your property and in the streets). Over time, the grease can build up and block the entire pipe. Note that home garbage disposals do not keep grease out of the plumbing system. These units only shred solid material into smaller pieces and do not prevent grease from going down the drain. Commercial additives, including detergents, that claim to dissolve grease may pass grease down the line and cause problems in other areas.

WEF suggests these tips to alleviate pipe blockage and sewer overflows:

Never pour grease down sink drains or into toilets.
Scrape grease and food scraps from trays, plates, pots, pans, utensils, and grills and cooking surfaces into a can or the trash for disposal (or recycling where available).
Do not put grease down garbage disposals. Put baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids, and empty the drain baskets/strainers into the trash for disposal.
Speak with your friends and neighbors about the problem of grease in the sewer system and how to keep it out.
Call your local sewer system authority if you have any questions.

Other things to never wash down your drain:

  • Fats, oils or grease from cars or lawnmowers
  • Coffee grinds
  • Egg shells
  • Produce stickers
  • Chunks of garbage
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Paper towels
  • Flushable cat litter
  • Rags
  • Condoms
  • Motor oil, transmission fluids, anti-freeze or other toxic chemicals
  • Solvents, paints, turpentine, nail polish, polish remover
  • Flammable or explosive substances
  • Corrosive substances that are either acidic or caustic
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications

For more information on how to dispose of old medication and personal care products, read Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out.

Read more: Community, Do Good, Environment, Home, Household Hints, Life, , ,

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love

Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

210 comments

+ add your own
10:09AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Thanks for sharing

10:01AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Do Not use Bleach in Septic Systems it kills the good bugs that breakdown waste.
Use Baking Soda in your laundry and rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar(smell goes away)

9:48AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Once a month clean your drains~Put baking soda in all your drains add white vinegar and let it bubble down the drain~wait 15 minutes and flush with very warm water.
Once a month~Put 1 package of Yeast into the septic system(good bugs)
Once a week~put 1/2 cup of Baking Soda down the toilet

9:55PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Good points

8:11AM PST on Feb 8, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

8:17PM PDT on Jun 28, 2012

Thanks

1:03PM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

oops! i'm guilty of pouring sour milk down the drain before. thanks for the info.

1:44PM PST on Feb 3, 2012

Good to know, thank you.

8:10PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

I like to let things with grease cool so I can scrape the fat off for the chickens. They like any kind of fat, and they don't just convert it to chicken fat! They get everything out of the sink before the dish soap goes in -- don't want them putting soap in my eggs! If it's edible, the chickens get it. I try not to put anything greasy or chunky down the sink, and no bleach or harsh chemicals that will harm my septic system.

11:55AM PST on Dec 2, 2011

We use baking soda and white vinegar to clean all our drains. The fizz it created does a good job of clearing any small clogs. As to fats, we often have some barely used kitchen towel (made from recycled paper of course) on the kitchen counter that soaks up any oily stuff, left by food prep. The more solid stuff is scrapped off and then put in the municipal compost, along with the oily wipes.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Like the idea, hate that these articles always are truncated so we have to go off-site to read "the …

I've posted this and asked this before, still no Vegan has said anything about it (too many prefer t…

Thank you

Reading this, I realise most people do not understand what the Paleo/Evolutionary Diet actually stan…

My bride and I have begun using "avocados" in place of mayo on all of our sandwiches. Don and I CAN…

Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.