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Old 11-25-2019, 04:29 PM
StraightTalk is offline
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Which is better for the environment?


Suppose you have some toilet tissue you need to dispose of (blew your nose or got or bug or something). If you are going to flush anyway (i.e. water usage is not a consideration in this), is it better to flush this tissue or is better to put it in the trash can?
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Old 11-25-2019, 04:33 PM
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I think its a wash.
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Old 11-25-2019, 05:34 PM
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It’ll decompose into carbon dioxide and water either way so yeah, it’s a wash.
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Old 11-25-2019, 05:41 PM
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I'm guessing the best thing for the environment would be the third option not mentioned -- compost it. It'll still decompose that way, too, but you get useful fertilizer out of it. Out of the two options given in the OP I agree it's probably a wash.
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Old 11-25-2019, 05:59 PM
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I don't agree that there's no difference between the two options. I don't think much decomposes in a modern sanitary landfill, so I think it's going to decompose more quickly in the toilet (and ultimately sewage system). Some paper, like Scott brand toilet tissue, seems to dissolve in water after just a few hours.
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Old 11-25-2019, 06:44 PM
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The 'environment' can easily take a on off item without any difference. There is no butterfly effect when it comes to anything like this . So the environmental impact depends on the collective matter and energy streams and their collective effects. Right now the 2 streams that this could take would be driven to a landfill or incinerator or either piped to a treatment plant or to a septic system. Both systems are up and running with their environmental impacts in place and both take a certain amount of tissue paper to its final resting place.

Last edited by kanicbird; 11-25-2019 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 11-25-2019, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
I'm guessing the best thing for the environment would be the third option not mentioned -- compost it. It'll still decompose that way, too, but you get useful fertilizer out of it. Out of the two options given in the OP I agree it's probably a wash.
I can think of an even better option: just blow your nose, one nostril at a time, directly into the toilet and flush the snot! No paper needed!
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Old 11-25-2019, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StraightTalk View Post
Suppose you have some toilet tissue you need to dispose of (blew your nose or got or bug or something). If you are going to flush anyway (i.e. water usage is not a consideration in this), is it better to flush this tissue or is better to put it in the trash can?
Where are you flushing it to?

If you are flushing into a city's waste treatment plant most of that water, after treatment, ends up in the nearest river/waterway. If you are flushing into a local drain field the tissue will still decompose but the actual effect is more localized.
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Old 11-26-2019, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I don't agree that there's no difference between the two options. I don't think much decomposes in a modern sanitary landfill, so I think it's going to decompose more quickly in the toilet (and ultimately sewage system). Some paper, like Scott brand toilet tissue, seems to dissolve in water after just a few hours.
If you're dealing with a residential septic system, yes, tissue will decompose locally once it's flushed out to the leach field.

If you're dealing with a municipal sewer system, I don't think there's much bacterial decomposition of suspended solids between your house and the sewage treatment plant. At the plant, solids (including fragments of that tissue) are filtered out of the water, after which they must be disposed of somehow - most commonly in a landfill, where it will eventually decompose.

So putting a tissue into a municipal sewer includes the same degree of impact as putting it in the trash - except it also places burden on the sewer system, which means it also includes any environmental impact associated with the maintenance and operation of said sewer system (specifically with regard to filtration/treatment/disposal of sewage sludge).
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Old 11-26-2019, 07:04 AM
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Since there is no real difference at the end of the sewage and trash 'streams', the biggest difference is how you put it into either of those systems.

If the tissue gets thrown into your trash can it goes away with the rest of the trash - thus little impact. If it gets flushed along with something else that that ordinarily requires flushing there would also be little impact. The most wasteful option would be to put it in the toilet and flush it by itself - thereby wasting the water required for that flush.
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Old 11-26-2019, 08:40 AM
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I am amazed.

Landfill all the way.

Processing the extraneous solids in sewage is orders of magnitudes more expensive than processing garbage.

Scale it up to a large scale. Imagine what's involved in filtering out, processing and disposing of a train load of TP in the sewage system vs. directly sending it to a landfill.
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Old 11-26-2019, 09:17 AM
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I agree with Machine Elf and ftg. Going straight to the landfill centainly eliminates the sewage processing effort. And that holds true for private septic fields. When the holding tank gets pumped out that waste material goes to a sewage treatment plant, not a landfill.
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Old 12-03-2019, 12:49 AM
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Toilet paper and facial tissues, despite feeling pretty similar, are designed differently. Toilet paper is designed to fall apart fairly quickly when it soaks in water. Facial tissue will hold up a lot longer. I can't speak to how long it would hold together in a septic tank or sewer system (as opposed to those "flushable" cleaning wipes, which truly are a menace) and I'm sure the occasional tissue poses no major problem.... but if you're gonna flush, try to grab a square or two of actual TP.
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Old 12-03-2019, 03:36 AM
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Landfill, of the two options.

"Add to collection of all bodily secretions and nail and hair clippings, so no-one can trap my soul" is the correct answer, though.
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Old 12-03-2019, 04:26 AM
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It depends on where you are - but if you're where I'll mention, you'd know already.

Toilets in the parts of Mexico and Central America I've been all have waste cans beside them. ALL soiled tissues go into the can, not down the drain, because typical drain pipes aren't meant to transport paper loads, and clog easily. ONE angry posada proprietor is all that's needed to firmly educate you.

I've noted easy-clogging toilets in older US lavatories too. In a modern setup, flushing a tissue into a septic or sewer likely won't matter. Otherwise, toss it in the can, along with used condoms, tampons, cotton puffs, diapers, handy-wipes, suppositories, and syringes.
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Old 12-03-2019, 05:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
Toilet paper and facial tissues, despite feeling pretty similar, are designed differently. Toilet paper is designed to fall apart fairly quickly when it soaks in water. Facial tissue will hold up a lot longer. I can't speak to how long it would hold together in a septic tank or sewer system (as opposed to those "flushable" cleaning wipes, which truly are a menace) and I'm sure the occasional tissue poses no major problem.... but if you're gonna flush, try to grab a square or two of actual TP.
Oh, yeah, those "flushable" wipes...!

I've had the misfortune to be present when a septic tank was opened. Both TP and facial tissue do indeed dissolve away in such an environment. Flushable wipes do not. They are "flushable" in that they will go down the pipes. They do NOT dissolve/degrade/decompose. Those fuckers just hang out forever, until you get the honey-dipper to pump out the tank at which point said honey-dipper will be bitching and cursing about the goddamn wipes. That's after you rod out the whole system because the wipes, despite the word "flushable" in their names, got stuck somewhere in the piping and cause a clog.

Ditto for tampons. I know a local guy who broke his daughters from flushing tampons down their toilets by making them fix the problem. The average teen age girl discovers that having to rod out the sewer line and then fish the tampons out of the septic tank is a LOT worse and more gross than plonking them in a trash can. Apparently the cure only needs to be administered once and provides life-long immunity to further transgressions.

Only two things should go down a toilet: bodily waste, and toilet paper. Everything else needs a trash can.
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Old 12-03-2019, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by ftg View Post
I am amazed.

Landfill all the way.

Processing the extraneous solids in sewage is orders of magnitudes more expensive than processing garbage.

Scale it up to a large scale. Imagine what's involved in filtering out, processing and disposing of a train load of TP in the sewage system vs. directly sending it to a landfill.
I haven't seen any studies, but I don't think it's that clear. The marginal effort to treat a little toilet paper in the sewage isn't that much (the OP says they're flushing anyway).

I'm not sure how much of the TP ends up in the sludge (wastewater isn't actually 'filtered'; it's just put in a tank for a bit to let the solids settle), but between what stays suspended and the biological activity in the sludge later, I guess a fair amount of the TP eventually is digested down to CO2 (which is kind of environmentally neutral, considering it was made from a tree that took in CO2). And most of the work getting it to the plant is done by gravity. Whereas, the garbage truck does emit more fossil fuel CO2 for every extra ounce it carries.

Bottom line: I think it's close enough that it's not worth worrying too hard about.
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Old 12-03-2019, 12:34 PM
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My town sends the trash to an incinerator. How does that fit into the flush vs trash equation?
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