Flushed items like wet wipes, cotton buds and dental floss can take more than 500 years to biodegrade in the ocean

Posted: Tuesday 4th February 2020

Recent 2019 research shows that UK residents are flushing more condoms, tampons, cotton buds and wet wipes than in 2018.

According to Ocean Conservancy, approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean every single year, and 8.5% of that comes from the items we flush down the toilet.

In 2018 wastewater and drainage company - UDKN Waterflow (LG) – conducted a survey to see exactly how often the items found in sewers, and those washed up on the UK’s beaches, are flushed.

In 2019, UKDN’s parent company, conducted an almost identical survey to see if habits had changed since 2018 and the documentation of the ocean’s rising plastic count. The research showed that people’s efforts towards flushing items have become even worse in some cases.

Building on the 2018 and 2019 survey, UKDN wanted to see exactly how long the items that are flushed down the toilet would take to biodegrade in the ocean. UKDN teamed with Kirsty-Jo Muddiman – an expert in terrestrial & aquatic toxicology to create a report which looks into the biodegradability rates for 8 commonly flushed items in both sewer and marine conditions.

The report shows that all of the items tested contain some form of plastic and, therefore, it is estimated that the majority of the items will take 500 years to biodegrade in the ocean, whilst some of them will never actually biodegrade due to their physical and chemical structure.

UKDN have created a quiz so that people can see exactly how long all of their flushed items combined would take to biodegrade in a marine environment. UKDN want to educate the public on the consequences of flushing items and reveal the truth of what happens to them after they’ve been discarded down the toilet.

UKDN’s Head of Marketing - Michelle Ringland - commented, “Not only does this research expose the UK’s habits when it comes to flushing plastic, but it also shines a light on the unconventional ways plastic enters our oceans. The most worrying thing is that these items will outlive generations to come and most probably cause a great deal of harm to marine life and the environment on the way”. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

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April 2021

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