To Flush or Not to Flush?

It's a delicate subject, but this is the truth: Only human waste and toilet paper should be flushed down your toilet. However, our wastewater treatment professionals find a wide variety of items in our sewers and collection facilities, including the cell phone, toys, cueballs and marbles in the photo to the right.

How did these end up in our collection system?

The following is a short list of materials that should never be disposed in kitchen and bathroom sinks, or down your toilet.

Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG)

Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) come from meats, butters and margarine, lard, food scraps, sauces, salad dressings, dairy products and cooking oil. When FOG goes down the drain, it hardens and causes sewer pipes to clog. This can lead to a Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) where raw sewage actually backs up into your home, lawn, neighborhood and streets.

Please do not pour oil and grease down drains or toilets. Grease is the number one cause of sewer blockages in homes. It cools as it travels through pipes and, over time, the accumulation of FOG can block pipes, contribute to clogs and, eventually, cause raw sewage to surcharge out of nearby manholes.

The solution: allow fat, oils and grease to harden in a can or carton and then dispose of it in your garbage. If you have a lot of grease, you can recycle it at any Spartanburg County recycling location. Click here for those locations.

Pharmaceuticals:

Did you know that 70 percent of us take at least one prescription medication, with one in five Americans taking as many as five different medicines on a consistent basis? Nearly 40 percent of those prescriptions end up going unused. That amounts to 200 million pounds of stockpiled, unused and expired pills, syrups and liquids.

In the past, there was no consistent and convenient disposal method, so many of these medicines were flushed down the drain.

Currently, the best method we have to prevent the introduction of dangerous substances into our water system, and to keep medications from falling into the wrong hands, is education—many agencies, from Spartanburg Water to law enforcement, have joined forces to provide an alternative to home disposal: RXcycle Spartanburg. This group has partnered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for Prescription Drug Take-Back Days in Spring and Fall since 2012.

Never flush prescription or over the counter (OTC) medicines down a toilet or sink. Proper disposal of these substances means you are doing your part to protect our water resources. Please follow FDA guidelines by clicking here.

Personal Care, Cleaning and Miscellaneous Items:

Unlike toilet paper, which breaks down quickly in water, personal, baby and cleaning/disinfecting wipes remain intact and tangle into massive clogs that jam pumps and block pipes. Even those labeled "flushable" should not be flushed.

Here’s a list of a few other items that cannot be recycled and should always be disposed of in a trash receptacle:

  • Toys, or anything made of plastic, including plastic coffee stirrers
  • Paper towels
  • Cat litter or animal waste
  • Diapers and baby wipes
  • Cigarette butts
  • Disposable toilet brushes and cleaning/disinfecting wipes
  • Tampons and sanitary pads, personal care wipes