What does ‘flushable’ mean?


Where does your sewage go? If you live in Nassau County, it goes into a sewage treatment plant. One huge problem for these treatment plants is nylon. Nylon is a strong, stretchy material that slows and breaks down the sewage treatment system.

Keith Pearsall, chief operator at the Greater Atlantic Beach Water Reclamation District, visited our classroom to share information with us. He told us that nylon can cause problems at sewage treatment plants and even shut down the equipment. All sewage plants have grinders, machines with rotating teeth that are used for tearing up sewage. The grinder’s purpose is to rip up solid materials in the flow.

The grinder is powerful enough to rip up a two-by-four piece of lumber but nylon material can stop a grinder dead. These nylon products hang up on the machine and as they collect, they clog up the machine and it stops operating. The problem does not stop there. In the machine called the digester, which is where organic materials are broken down, the nylon takes up space because it is not biodegradable. It takes standard sewage days to decompose, while nylon can take years. Also, nylon clogs the pumps. Thousands of dollars are spent fixing these machines or replacing them. The amount of money spent has to come from somewhere. Since these sewage treatment centers are public facilities, our tax dollars pay for these repairs.

What does this nylon problem have to do with homeowners? Do homeowners throw nylon down their toilets or sinks? Unbelievably, the answer is yes! The baby wipes and dental floss in your homes contain nylon-based materials. Every time you throw a baby wipe in the toilet or let dental floss go down the drain, the nylon from your household and your neighbors’ households and so on adds up and causes these problems for the grinder and digester at the sewage treatment plants.

“What does flushable mean? This, it turns out, is a very good question. Flushable wipes are indeed flushable, just as a box of doughnuts and a case of Slim Jims are ‘edible.’ Doughnuts are as bad for your system as nylon is bad for the sewage plants. Just because you get them down doesn’t mean they’re good for your system.” This quote and more information can be found here:

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