When our eco-efforts go down the drain. What is Unblocktober?

Taking good care of the earth doesn’t have to be a drag. What if there was a way to make it more fun? (Pro tip: there is!) Meet Unblocktober. This month-long challenge doubles as a movement to save our sewers and seas. Read on to learn how you can take part!

The 8 million tonnes of plastic being dumped in the ocean each year is not a fun number to look at, let alone claim – so what can we be changing in our daily routines to help the planet thrive? If you want to learn more about your impact on the sewer system and reduce the amount of plastic and pollution entering our waterways, sign up for Unblocktober!

What is Unblocktober?

Unblocktober is a month-long commitment by UK residents to change what they put down the drain, limiting sewer pollution and associated issues that arise from dumping plastics and greasy liquids into waterways. The Unblocktober site states: “We invite individuals and businesses to take on the challenge and avoid putting fats, oils and grease (FOG), food, face masks and wet wipes and a range of other troublesome items down their drains for 31 consecutive days in October.”

2021 will be this program’s third year running! They write, “Launched in 2019, the first Unblocktober saw more than 4,500 Britons across the country pledge to change their kitchen and bathroom habits at home and at work. This rose to more than 14,500 in 2020 – and this year we need even more of you to get involved!”

Why should my family get involved?

Folks around the world have spent decades discarding dangerous liquids and items down their drains, which creates what we call “fatbergs.” These fatty, non-decomposing masses contain “enormous masses” of materials that can take centuries to biodegrade. In the UK “48% of the nation have flushed wet wipes and pour fats, oils and grease down their drains” (Unblocktober)

When sewers and drains get blocked, problems like foul waste flooding, pollution and excavation repairs can occur. These are not easy fixes and cost cities large amounts of money to remove. With “8.5% of plastic pollution that goes into the ocean each year coming from flushing harmful items” the goal of Unblocktober is to avoid causing these issues in the first place, by changing what we put down the drain! It’s been estimated that “180 million cotton buds are flushed per year”, think about the blockages created from that alone!

Over three-quarters of the UK population know what a fatberg is and more than two-thirds know what or what not to put down their drains, nearly half of us “willingly continue to put fatberg-forming substances into our sewers” (Unblocktober). It’s time for us to learn what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to taking care of our drains, sewers and waterways. 

We all know we shouldn’t flush wipes, but what about flushable wipes? Unfortunately, even when wipes are labelled “flushable,” they take an approximate 500 years to biodegrade due to their non-woven polyester materials. Equally, your dental floss might seem harmless, but nylon is a form of plastic and can take up to 500 years to biodegrade – even though the wax breaks down in less than six months! Sewer pollution is a serious issue and cannot be ignored any longer.  

What about the days that we’re busy and just pour oils or food scraps down the drain? These substances can collect and block sewers or even contribute to fatbergs once they reach the ocean! Sewer pollution is a serious issue and cannot be ignored any longer.

Additionally, with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the UK, “the number of ‘unflushable’ items finding their way into our drains has increased significantly, with improper disposal of face masks, rubber gloves and wet wipes,” (Unblocktober). So, here’s our question for you: Are you sure you want to flush that? Your waste will have an impact for the next few centuries.

How can I get involved in Unblocktober and reduce sewer pollution?

All we want is for you to pay more attention to what you put down the drain this October and commit to putting none of the following items down your drains or toilets for the whole month:

  • Butter, margarine, lard, cooking sauces or oils
  • Food (including crumbs!)
  • Wet wipes, nappies
  • Period products (including tampons, applicators, wrappers, and sanitary pads)
  • Condoms
  • Cotton buds
  • Contact lenses
  • Bandages and plasters
  • Dental floss
  • Razor blades
  • Face masks
  • Disposable gloves

You’ll have a bigger impact if you invite your family and friends to join you! It’s easy to think that simple sustainability practices are inconvenient, or that your contribution is minimal, but it’s been proven that “if enough people think like this, then the consequences are significant” (Yearn). Check out this article for more ways to reduce your waste and protect the environment. 

Are you ready to join the movement to save our sewers and seas? Sign up for Unblocktober here!

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If this is your first visit, hello, let us introduce ourselves. We’re Y’earn and we exist to create more love, less landfill. Pretty lofty, right? Well, not really, it’s actually pretty simple. Our aim is to make renting as common as owning so we live more sustainably while helping the community around us.

Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people in your community or make some cash if you have items you don’t need right now. We’re a sustainable business that plants 🌲, adopts 🐝 and donates to children’s charities.  We’re helping each other and the planet, one rental at a time.

You can read more about how Y’earn works here.

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Y'earn Baby & Kids

Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people and small businesses in your community or make some cash if you have items you don't need right now. We plant 🌲 and adopt 🐝, plus give to children’s charities.

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