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To mark the 10th anniversary of World Toilet Day, clean water campaigners Surfers Against Sewage are releasing the results of an undercover ‘Think Before You Flush’ investigation that has seen SAS ‘Secret Shoppers’ scour the high street stores for sanitary items whose packaging does not carry appropriate disposal information – such as the ‘Bag It And Bin It, Don’t Flush It’ icon.


SAS believe this information is nothing more than what should be the minimum industry standard. It is estimated that over 2 billion sanitary items, such as condoms, tampons and wipes are flushed down the toilet every year in the UK; these products end up on the UK’s precious coastline as Sewage Related Debris (SRD). Our toilets are NOT ‘wet’ bins. Not only is SRD unsightly it has been shown to carry harmful bacteria and viruses to our beaches and bathing waters and to cause blockages at sewage treatment plants, resulting in sewage spills. Producers of sanitary items have a responsibility, along with their consumers to minimise the impact that their products have upon the environment, at the very least their products should provide basic disposal information.

Sustainable Achievable Solutions is a cornerstone of all SAS campaigns; therefore our first action in July of this year since then we have made every attempt to engage with the companies we identified, that did not have the minimum disposal information on their products. We tried to contact them by phone, email and post asking them to commit, by World Toilet Day, to incorporating appropriate disposal information onto all sanitary products in their next packaging run. Responses to this request were mixed to say the least, the 9 companies listed below and the potential impacts of their inaction fell easily into three categories; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good
SAS always celebrate the good, as a direct result of our ‘Think Before You Flush Campaign’ the following companies have committed to ensuring that their packaging carried appropriate disposal information and in some cases have already incorporated it, enabling their consumers to make an informed decisions and helping to protect our precious coastline.

Pasante Femidoms

Witch/Lornamead Cleansing Wipes

Cottontails Cotton Wool Pads

Thirst Pockets Kitchen Towels

The Bad
SAS believe that ‘Think Before You Flush’ information is nothing short of the minimum industry standard. Therefore we have been extremely disappointed with the responses we have received from some producers of sanitary products, some of whom have more than one product without the bare minimum disposal information, what’s more some companies have refused even to reply to SAS despite multiple attempts to make contact since July of this year, those companies are listed within the “The Bad” table below.

Lil-Lets Tampons (“The used Tampon can be flushed away” on packaging)

Boots Feminine wipes (“Simply Flush away” on packaging)

Superdrug cotton wool pads and face wipes (No response)

Sainsburys Dental Floss

Beiresdorf/Nivea Facewipes

Don't shit on the beach


The Ugly
We at SAS, our members and beach lovers across the UK are fully aware of the immense threat that marine litter poses to our precious coastline, with the amounts of marine litter found on our beaches almost doubling in the last 15 years. More worrying still is the even greater increase in the amounts of Sewage Related Debris (SRD) being found, in 2010 SRD counted for a horrific 7% of all marine litter. As previously stated, it is estimated that over 2 billion sanitary items are flushed down the toilet every year in the UK, resulting in an average of 95 cotton bud sticks being found per km of our beautiful coastline. SRD is unsightly, carries harmful pathogens to our beaches and bathing waters and can be prevented; SAS ask the UK public to ‘Think Before They Flush’ and to only flush the ‘4 P’s’ (Poo, Pee, Paper and Puke) down their toilets. The very least that these companies can do is to put clear and appropriate disposal information on their sanitary products, helping SAS protect the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy.

SAS welcome support from Keep Britain Tidy and Richard McIlwain from Keep Britain Tidy said: “Research carried out by Keep Britain Tidy shows that people give little or no thought to what happens once they have flushed items down the toilet, until they are made aware of the environmental impact of their actions. People want to do something positive to help improve the environment and educating people about responsible disposal is vital. The manufacturers have a key role to play in educating their customers and we would urge them all to join the ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign to help clean up our coastline. Litter is everyone’s responsibility and disposing of it correctly is vital if we want to ensure our island’s coastline does not find itself drowning in rubbish.”

SAS Campaigns Officer Dom Ferris says: ‘Here at SAS we are sadly only too aware of the threat that marine litter, in particular SRD poses to the UK’s precious coastline. Whilst it’s great news that 4 companies have come on board with the ‘Think Before You Flush’ Campaign, we are both saddened and angered by the apathy of the other 5 companies, especially when you consider how straightforward it would be for them to put this basic information onto their products. More worrying still is that some companies such as Boots and Lil-lets are actively encouraging their consumers to “Simply flush away after use” (Boots Feminine Wipes). They should be ashamed!

Cotton buds were notable in their absence from the list, although we are still finding unacceptable amounts on the UK’s beaches. However there are signs that their prevalence is decreasing; this is due in part to a successful SAS ‘Think Before You Flush Campaign’ in 2008. Six major high street retailers (Waitrose, Co-op, Asda, Tesco, Marks and Spencer and the Body Shop) agreed to incorporate appropriate disposal information on their cotton bud packaging after months of pressure from SAS, the precedent has been set.

For more information please contact Dom Ferris or call SAS HQ on 01872 553 001. Visit sas.org.uk for more information on ‘Think Before You Flush’.

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