June 23, 2024

Teeth, vapes and car keys. These are just some of the unexpected items choking Sydney’s sewers over the past year, prompting a move to flush out toilet-blockers.

Sydney Water’s Toilet Blockers Anonymous campaign is reminding people to only flush the “3 Ps” – pee, poo and (toilet) paper – to prevent chokes and blockages, also known as “fatbergs”.

Fatbergs are congealed masses of fat, wet wipes and other personal hygiene products that more commonly occur in winter.

Sydney Water crews have attended more than 3,699 jobs at a cost of $917 per choke from January to April 2024.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of chokes occurring in our network over the last 12 months,” Sydney Water’s head of wastewater and environment, Iain Fairbairn, said in a statement on Sunday.

“We are creating an opportunity for people to start an uncomfortable conversation about their toilet habits.

“Some people don’t think twice about flushing a tissue or dental floss, but the reality is non-flushable wet wipes, fats, oils and grease, as well as items like cotton buds and sanitary products are a significant threat to our wastewater network.”

Other bizarre items found by crews responding to network chokes over the past 12 months include kids’ toys, vapes, face masks, tea towels, golf balls, jewellery and crayons.

Customer data showed men aged between 18 and 29 were the biggest culprits when it came to flushing rubbish down the loo.

“Some people are not aware how much damage flushing the wrong thing down the toilet can do,” Fairbairn said.

Penrith (35) was the most common location for chokes primarily caused by flushing inappropriate items, followed by St Ives (30), Castle Hill (29), Rose Bay (28) and Engadine (27).

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Sydney Water also cited statistics that indicated 48% thought it was OK to flush tissues, 22% for hair, 7% for dental floss and 5% for tampons.

The new campaign features a group of toilet blockers sitting on the loo struggling with the temptation to flush inappropriate items.

Fairbairn said the campaign uses humour to address a serious issue and encourage people to change their behaviour.

“Around 75% of wastewater blockages involve rubbish that should be put in a bin and not flushed down the toilet,” he said.

“It’s all about highlighting the simple things our customers can do to avoid expensive plumbing bills and protect the environment by remembering ‘a blocked loo is on you’.”

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