VICTORIA -- Cleaning, wiping and disinfecting has become a major part of our daily lives on Vancouver Island due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

All that extra attention to cleanliness is creating a new problem, however. Waste systems are being overwhelmed by extra waste being flushed down the toilet, including non-flushable items such as disinfectant wipes, paper towels and even latex gloves.

The Capital Regional District (CRD) and many Vancouver Island municipalities say that wipes – even ones that are labelled as flushable – and other debris are being flushed down toilets and are clogging up filters in sewer systems.

The added waste is creating extra wear-and-tear on infrastructure, adding extra maintenance costs for municipalities and potentially damaging pipes and pumping stations.

The only thing that should be going down the toilet is human waste and toilet paper, says Dr. Glenn Harris, senior manager of environmental protection at the CRD.

“[Anything that is not human waste or toilet paper] can cause sewer systems to backup, shut down and cause overflows,” he said.

Harris says that the added stress to the island’s sewer system will end up costing taxpayers.

Non-flushable items are not just a problem for the public sewer system, adds Harris. These items can cause damage to septic systems and end up costing homeowners lots of money to fix.

Meanwhile, the CRD is reminding people not to flush medication down the toilet. Instead, unused and old prescriptions or off-the-shelf medications should be returned to pharmacies where they can be disposed of properly.

“As we move towards the new sewage treatment plant here in the core area at McLoughlin Point, we are re-emphasizing things that should be flushed down the system,” said Harris.

“Unless it’s poop, paper or pee, that’s it! Everything else needs to be properly bagged up and put into the garbage.”

Other things that people should not flush down the toilet include contact lenses, dental floss and harsh chemicals – all of which can cause damage to infrastructure and the environment.

The CRD asks that everyone remind their families and communities about what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet.

For more information on the public waste system visit the CRD’s website here.