How do our homes impact rivers and beyond? 

It’s common to see a big contradiction in the eco-world: people who strive to protect oceans and rivers often overlook the impact of their own households. We understand the confusion. After all, how could your home possibly affect water when you live nowhere near a river or the sea? It’s water companies that treat wastewater to ensure that it’s purified before being discharged into the ocean. However, this statement overlooks a crucial point: most of the problems occur before wastewater has a chance to reach treatment. Much of what goes down your drains ends up polluting our precious waterways because wastewater isn’t just water. Let us explain a little more.

Where does our wastewater go? 

In a perfect world, wastewater would flow smoothly from our homes, be cleaned, and returned safely to the oceans. However, our reality is far from perfect. In addition to water, people often send other items down their drains and sewers, creating blockages and preventing wastewater from reaching treatment facilities. Unfortunately, our homes are not the only sources of these unwanted items.

The problem is that these blockages can cause massive backups that sometimes result in environmental leaks or, in rare cases, even affect our homes. While we cannot control natural factors like bad weather that might cause debris to enter our drains, we can take action in our homes. Items such as wet wipes, cooking fats and oils, sanitary products, floss, and nappies should never be flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. Sewers and drains are just not equipped to handle them. By putting these items in our rubbish bins, we can prevent them from ending up in our rivers and damaging the local environment. 

What we flush matters to rivers

Regardless of where a blockage occurs, its impact is often not realised until an issue arises. Of course, there is data that can determine hotspots where regular blockages arise. But there’s no way of knowing until it happens. So, what we flush matters. We can’t just stop flushing these items when a block surfaces, we need to take preventative measures. This means not flushing these items now so that they don’t end up in our rivers and being dragged out to sea where their impact increases significantly. 

What is phytoplankton and why must we protect it? 

Many of us instinctively want to protect rivers and oceans. Not only for their natural beauty but also for the marine life they sustain. However, some people still question the importance of these efforts if they don’t personally love marine creatures. What they may not realise is that phytoplankton, tiny organisms that live on the water’s surface, are a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Similar to plants, phytoplankton consume carbon, but they require sunlight to survive.

Millions of phytoplankton thrive on the surface of our oceans and rivers helping us to clean up our atmosphere. But litter prevents them from thriving, and in facts, kills them. Imagine how many phytoplankton could remove CO2 from the air if the Great Pacific Garbage patch didn’t exist? There’s no financial, physical, or even mental effort required to harness the power of phytoplankton. It’s a simple case of keeping rubbish out of our rivers and oceans.

It all starts at the beginning, with that flush of a wet wipe or the pouring of cooking fats and oils down the kitchen sink. Even improperly disposing of litter while out and about can have detrimental effects. These actions not only contribute to hazardous flooding in the local environment but also hinder phytoplankton’s ability to fight climate change globally. It takes minimal effort to dispose of waste properly in a bin rather than sending it down the drain. So let’s start making a difference today by preventing blockages in our local areas.

18 Responses

  1. You’ve missed the point that un-screened and untreated sewage is routinely poured into rivers by water companies due to the frequent, excessive operation of Combined Sewage Overflows. I don’t see how blockages can cause sewage to end up in rivers!

    However, of course we should not flush the items mentioned to avoid blockages and the items being discharged from CSOs.

    1. When a blocked sewer overflows the excess waste water can run into surface water drains. These often discharge directly into watercourses. Any excess which doesn’t reach a drain soaks into the ground, potentially contaminating the soil and ground water. Our actions can reduce this, even though we have no control over the deficiencies of the infrastructure.

    2. I agree, by far the worst culprits for causing pollution in rivers are the water companies and their regular discharges to rivers

  2. I don’t seem to have a code to claim my points, can you please help.
    Many thanks, Stephen Oliver

  3. Interesting. But when washing up using a washing-up liquid small amounts of cooking fats and oils do go down the kitchen sink. How else is one expected to keep ones utensils clean and for healthy use. Those particulates dispersed in hot water should not block the system.
    The council is gradually making waste disposal impossible. The human body is a machine, input and output, all done as safely as possible, including the food we eat. It is up to THAMES WATER to maintain their systems properly. A water leak can appear on a road – e.g. New Road Ruscombe – there has been a leak there, and weeks ago blue marks appeared on the road surface – but nobody has been back to attend to it.

  4. Our rivers should be regularly dredged . I also don’t have a code to receive my points.

  5. It might be worth mentioning that we should be reducing our use of detergents and cleaning chemicals, or replacing with natural products as they also destroy or hinder the effect of phytoplankton.

  6. If Wokingham is no longer belonging to Greendeem will i still be able to receive same and donate my points still.Thank you

  7. If we have left over fat we leave it long enough for animal fat to go solid then it’s put into food waste. Liquid oil is poured off into a glass jar with lid. When this is full it is put into the unrecyclable bin along with kitchen paper that’s been used to wipe the pan before it is washed up.

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