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  • Clean Coasts and local sustainable businesses are calling people in Cork to ditch single-use plastic toiletries and find a better match.

For the sixth year running, Clean Coasts are asking people in Cork to #BreakUpWithPlastic this Valentine’s Day and switch to sustainable, reusable alternatives. This year, the focus is on the bathroom and the Think Before You Flush campaign, which is operated by Clean Coasts in partnership with Uisce Éireann. Following this initiative, we are teaming up in Cork with the local, sustainable business We Are Riley which offers sustainable options to replace and reduce the use of plastic in the bathroom. 

The Think Before You Flush campaign highlights the issue of flushing unsuitable items down the toilet and the consequences of doing so, such as blockages in our wastewater network and treatment plants; surface water overflows; and sewage related litter in our rivers, on our beaches and in our oceans, damaging our marine environment.

Why #BreakUpWithPlastic in the bathroom?

At the heart of it, Valentine’s Day is a time to reflect on our relationships – the good and the bad. This February, it might be time to start questioning our relationship to things that may not be benefitting our environment or us. For example, our reliance on single-use plastic.

Did you know that items flushed down the toilet, other than the 3 Ps (pee, poo and paper), can make their way to our rivers and oceans? Research has found that one in five adults (21%) in Ireland regularly admits to flushing items down the toilet that contain plastic and are known to cause blockages. These items such as wipes, cotton bud sticks and dental floss can cause detrimental effects on wastewater treatment plants and networks, impacting river and marine environments. 

Ireland has some of the most diverse and spectacular coastlines in the world. However, our excessive use of plastic is polluting our oceans and it is having impacts on our waterways and threatening our marine wildlife and people’s health. Statistics show that Ireland is the number one plastic waste producer in the European Union, with 65kg of plastic waste per person produced each year, as well as being the country with the fifth lowest recycling rate.

The #BreakUpWithPlastic initiative aims to raise awareness of the impact of plastic pollution on our planet and marine environment by asking people to stop opting for single-use plastic.

Speaking about the campaign, Sinead McCoy, Clean Coasts said:

Clean Coasts are highlighting ways that we can all try and reduce plastic in our lives.  As we know single use plastic is an immense waste issue that creates a vast array of issues for our world, so a move to more sustainable and reusable items can have a real positive impact on the world around us. Sinead continued, We realise it can be difficult to make the break from single use, so for anybody starting the journey towards new, reusable, long-lasting loves, we have tips and hints on our website to get you started.

Talking about the size and scale of the problem associated with flushing the wrong things down the toilet, Tom Cuddy, Uisce Éireann said:

Everyday people flush items such as wet wipes down the toilet instead of simply putting them in the bin. This causes blockages in our network, pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants. Recent studies have found that 2 out of 10 people admit to flushing inappropriate items down the toilet such as wipes, dental floss, tampons, cotton buds, cigarette butts.  It is no surprise therefore that we are clearing thousands of blockages from our wastewater network every year, a significant proportion of which are caused by wipes.

People are using single use plastics at home and in the bathroom more than ever. However, it is important that we dispose of such items like wipes correctly. A simple solution is to only flush the 3 P’s – pee, poo and paper – down the toilet and throw wipes and other sanitary products in the bin. In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, Think Before You Flush are asking you to #BreakUpWithPlastic and bin your wipes.

What Can We Do? 

This February for Valentine’s Day, the Think Before You Flush campaign is teaming up with small, sustainable businesses throughout Ireland and will be sharing their top tips on how to ditch single-use plastics in the bathroom. In Cork we are teaming up with We Are Riley, a company providing environmentally friendly feminine sanitary products.  The campaign is also reminding everyone to always Think Before You Flush. Only the 3 P’s (pee, poo, and paper) should be flushed down the toilet. Everything else goes in the bin.

Clean Coasts will also be sharing tips and resources on how to #BreakUpWithPlastic outside of the bathroom. Check out how other people have already made the switch on social media @CleanCoasts and join the discussion by posting your own swops this Valentine’s Day, using the hashtag, #BreakUpWithPlastics. All positive actions make a difference!

Join the campaign on social media @CleanCoasts and at Learn more about the Think Before You Flush campaign at 

Social media:

Facebook: @CleanCoasts Twitter: @CleanCoasts Instagram: @cleancoasts

#CleanCoasts #ThinkB4UFlush

Think Before You Flush:

Think Before You Flush is a public awareness campaign highlighting the problems caused by flushing sanitary products and other items down the toilet. Consequences include blockages in our household plumbing, our wastewater network and littering our marine environment. The campaign is operated by An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme in partnership with Uisce Éireann and has been running since 2015. Each year, the campaign runs regionally in cities, towns and villages across Ireland. The campaign works with the local community, businesses and schools to promote changes in flushing behaviour through workshops, events and clean ups. The goal of the campaign is to encourage people to always #thinkb4uflush. 

Clean Coasts:

Clean Coasts is a charity programme, run through the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce, which engages communities in the protection of Ireland’s beaches, seas and marine life. Clean Coasts works with communities to help protect and care for Ireland’s waterways, coastline, seas, ocean and marine life. Clean Coasts thrives to create tangible and immediate improvements to Ireland’s coastal environment, involving thousands of volunteers removing large quantities of marine litter from our coastline each year.

Clean Coasts has grown over the years and now includes two main national clean-up drives. Other initiatives include the Green Coast Award, the Love Your Coast Photography competition, the Clean Coasts Roadshows for coastal communities and the Ocean Hero Awards. All these initiatives are aimed at celebrating the beauty of our coast and the efforts of our volunteers across all of Ireland.

Currently, there are over 1800 registered Clean Coasts volunteering groups. There are a variety of group types such as community groups, residents’ associations, tidy towns groups, sports clubs, schools, businesses, universities etc. Clean Coasts organises hundreds of beach clean-ups annually mobilising thousands of volunteers, removing considerable quantities of marine litter from Ireland’s beaches and waterways.   Our volunteering has expanded to also include Corporate Volunteering.

B&A Survey Findings:

2022 Think Before You Flush Survey Summary of Results

  • In 2022 Uisce Éireann commissioned a survey of the nation’s flushing behaviour. 1,015 adults aged 18+ were surveyed by Behaviour & Attitudes. Where relevant, comparisons to a similar survey undertaken in 2018, 2019 and 2021 are made and assist us in our understanding of the nation’s flushing behaviour over this period. 
  • One in five adults (21%) regularly admit to flushing items down the toilet that are known to cause blockages in our wastewater network and treatment plants.  Although this incidence rate is still too high, it represents a positive 42% improvement in the Nations flushing behaviour which was 36% in 2018.
  • The frequency of sewage related littering is highest in younger age profiles with close to one fifth (18%) of under 35s admitting to regularly flushing unsuitable items down the toilet (compared to 13% for those aged 35-54 and 9% for those aged 55+). The U35 age profile has seen continued improvement in the reduction of this environmentally harmful behaviour; this was 36% in 2018, now 18% in 2022. Representing an improvement of 50%. However, the disposal of wet wipes labelled as ‘flushable’ down the toilet it greatest amongst the younger U35s age profile (15%) (compared to 8% for those aged 35-54 and 7% for those aged 55+).
  • Everyday thousands of unsuitable items are flushed down toilets in Ireland instead of being put in the bin. This causes blockages in our wastewater systems, ultimately leading to sewer overflows and pollution in rivers, on beaches and in the ocean.  
  • Historically, the flushing of wipes were the most common items causing blockages in our wastewater network, leading to environmental pollution. Since 2018 we have seen a positive 38% reduction in people flushing wipes down the toilet. This was 18% in 2018, now 11% in 2022. However more than 1 in ten people still admit to flushing wipes down the toilet.
  • The most common items being flushed down the toilet are hair, wipes (any), paper towels, toilet wipes, dental floss, cleaning wipes, any other type of wipe, tampons, baby wipes, facial wipes, cotton buds, cigarette butts.

Other references

According with the last European Commission statistics, Eurostat, Ireland remains the biggest producer of plastic packaging waste per head of population in the EU, while having the fifth lowest recycling rate. 

The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that in 2019 approximately 229 kg of waste packaging was generated per person in Ireland, including 65 kilograms of plastic.

For more information please visit Plastic packaging waste: 38% recycled in 2020 – Products Eurostat News – Eurostat ( and News Releases 2021 | Environmental Protection Agency (