People are flushing protective masks and gloves down the toilet in Metro Vancouver

Jun 17 2020, 4:52 pm

As more people have begun wearing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the pandemic, more of these products are also being improperly disposed of – particularly by being flushed down the toilet.

According to Metro Vancouver, there has been “an increased amount of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves arriving at its pump stations and wastewater treatment plants…corresponding with the increased use of sanitation and PPE products.”

The increase in these items is in addition to the usual “unflushables” that are seen in the system, such as wipes, floss, hair, and other personal hygiene products.

And in an email to Daily Hive, Metro Vancouver said the disposal of these items via the toilet is an ongoing concern, because unflushable items “don’t break down and can contribute to clogs throughout the system, including in household plumbing and at pump stations.”

Ultimately, “any item flushed down the toilet that isn’t pee, poo, or toilet paper can contribute to a clog somewhere in the system.”

This can lead to sewage backups, damaged equipment, and workers being put at risk, as pumps “have to be cleared out manually.” There’s also the financial impact of this practice – it costs about $250 million Canada-wide per year to clean up.

As such, Metro Vancouver is reminding people that PPE items, as well as any other personal hygiene products (even those labeled compostable or flushable), should be properly disposed of by being securely placed in a plastic bag, and put in the garbage bin.