Graphic that says "Only flush toilet paper. No tissues, no paper towels, no napkins, no wipes" with images of those items.

Did you know? Rags, debris and wipes are the biggest sources of sewer overflows and backups.

Flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper can result in sewage back-ups, expensive damages to your home plumbing system, and cause problems to the sewer and water treatment system.

Only Toilet Paper in the Toilet

Toilet paper is the only paper product engineered to be compatible with the sanitary sewer system. It is the only item that breaks down in water quickly unlike other paper that doesn't break down. 

Never Flush

  • Disposable Wipes (even if marked “Flushable”)
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Paper Towels
  • Dental Floss
  • Face Cleaning Pads
  • Cotton Balls or Ear Swabs
  • Condoms
  • Diapers
  • Cooking Grease
  • Pills
The Wipes Crisis
Image of non- flushable wipes in a water treatment facility

Wipes, paper towels, and other paper products get caught in sewer lift stations and in equipment at the wastewater treatment facility. These items can damage equipment and must be removed by hand.

In the past 10 years, there has been an increase in damages and costs due to clogs and backups from flushing wipes. 

Sales of Flushable Wipes grew by 23%. The total market may grow as much as 12.1% annually, expanding to $2.4 billion annually.

 

A study in Maine on the performance of wipes showed that approximately 35 percent of debris in the municipal sewer systems studied were disposable wipes.

  • This market expansion has caused significant clean-up costs on municipal utilities throughout the country. 
  • Utilities nationwide now spend $500 million to $1 billion each year dealing with problems caused by wipes.
  • So-called flushable wipes currently on the market in the U.S. were retrieved fully intact after at least 30 minutes of travel time through the sewer system.
Pharmaceutical Disposal

Image of a hand flushing pills down a toilet, crossed outMedicine take back options are the best way to safely dispose of unused or expired prescription and nonprescription medicines.  This is because pharmaceuticals flushed or poured down the drain can end up contaminating our waters as water treatment plants are unable to fully remove these compounds before they reach the environment.  In addition to the environmental benefits, proper pharmaceutical disposal can also reduce addiction and stem overdose deaths.

Travis County Constable Precinct 5 has a permanent pharmaceutical disposal kiosk located in the lobby. Disposal of pharmaceuticals (pills or patches) at this site is both free and anonymous.

Location: 1003 Guadalupe St., Austin, TX 78701  

Hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (short-term parking is available in the parking lot)

Unaccepted Items: Liquids, needles or sharps.

Other authorized disposal sites in the Austin area can be located using the Controlled Substance Public Disposal Location Search provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.

As an alternative to the more permanent disposal sites, twice a year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.  Since the start of the DEA Take Back Day Program (21 events), 190,946 pounds of drugs have been collected from the state of Texas alone! For more information, visit https://takebackday.dea.gov/.

Helpful Resources

Toilets are meant for only one activity, and you know what we are talking about! When the wrong thing is flushed, results can include costly back-ups on your own property or cause problems on our sewer and water treatment system. 

That's why it's important to treat toilets properly, and flush only your personal contributions to the water treatment plant.