What Not to Pour Down the Drain

What we throw away and how we do it can be just as important as what we buy when it comes to helping the environment. According to research from the World Bank, pollution in South Africa kills 20,000 a year and costs the economy just under R300 million. Despite this, the Centre for Environmental Rights argues that South Africa actually has excellent environmental legislation; the problem is non-compliance. This means that what the country needs is a cultural shift. Here is how you can help at home by avoiding throwing away these things:


Of all the things not to throw down the drain, medication probably has the most alarming results. Waterworks systems are simply not designed to dispose of man made chemicals. Your medication will pollute rivers and certain medicines have even been known to change the growth patterns and the behaviors of fish that live there. Ideally, dispose of drugs by using a pharmacy take-back program. If that’s not possible, mix them with kitty litter or coffee grounds and seal them in a plastic bag before throwing them in the rubbish bin.


Condoms are usually made from latex and so certainly will not disintegrate in water. Most plastic substances that go down the drain will not decompose at all and end up in an ocean disrupting the marine life there. 


When you’re doing the washing up, it’s easy for soaked pasta to slip down the drain. However, be wary of these types of foods: pasta is often made with semolina flour, which becomes sticky and easily gums up pipes, leading to blockages.

Animal Fat

Always scrape animal fat into the rubbish bin before doing the dishes as it sticks to the insides of pipes and can eventually lead to blockages. If you can, cutting down on your meat consumption altogether is another great way to help the environment. South African meat prices are skyrocketing anyway so you can save money as you go greener.

The problems of the environment can seem too big to tackle and can make you seem small as an individual. However it starts with you: by being careful of what you pour down the drain you can get into good habits. If we all do our part we can make a change together.