Dave And Rob Maintenance Engineers From Amey Say: Stop Choking The Toilets, Drains And Oceans: Give The Planet A Chance! 

We all know that even before the virus Sars Covid 2 and the illness Covid 19, that we’d begun to question the value of the Jeremy Kyle style media ‘truths’ (described by the inequality charity Runnymede as “prole porn” in favour of a new kind of TV documentary truth about the people who work in our infrastructure, such as Sewer Men.

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Above: Artist Craig Oldham’s Poster supporting all workers on the Covid Front Line

With the work of Sheffield Documentary Film Festival, and debate and discussion about getting people from all walks of life making and participating in film and the news around them based on their experience we’re gradually seeing the impact in the way the media now talks about ‘our Key Workers‘. 

When 90 year old Nancy’s drain outside her door became blocked and the smell of the overflow soon became really overpowering I joined with her neighbours in phoning the council, the housing association and Severn Trent.

Severn Trent Water is one of the ten water and sewerage companies in England, supplying water and sewerage services to 4.3 million homes and businesses throughout the East and West Midlands with clean water and the removal of waste water.

In Wales Welsh Water  looks after Wales. In Scotland Scottish Water owns the infrastructure and there are twenty one suppliers.

For this problem, Matt and Daniel in customer service at Severn Trent were superb: within twenty four hours Amey  (Amey have the maintenance contract with Severn Trent until March 2021), Maintenance Engineers Rob Lewis and Dave Brown had inspected, investigated and cleared the blocked drain.

Above: Rob Lewis of Severn Trent who with his colleague, Dave Brown cleared the blocked drain of sanitary, nappy and incontinence products: people often think because there’s a recycle triangle on a product that it’s biodegradeable…and it’s not….

As Which point out the recycling logo often just means that a manufacturer has paid to be in a scheme that supports recyclable packaging.

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What we didn’t realise is that when drains are repeatedly blocked that Severn Trent are fined, hundreds of pounds: not only this during the Covid period Maintenance Engineers like Rob and Dave are putting themselves at risk in being in contact with the contents of blocked drains that may contain the virus Covid Sars 2. 

So we need to think creatively, learn and make a contribution to knowledge when and where we can. Thank you Rob and Dave for everything you’re doing thanks for the sewer savvy marketing materials (designed by RBL branding see featured image and below)

Above: some of the clear, straightforward marketing that we need just now in relation to the things we buy use and dispose of.

Researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in america have created a public good company that uses Technological monitoring of sewers and drains as an additional tool in the mapping of Covid 19 

In the UK we’re going to do the same.

Nature article: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00973-x

Article about Covid and the value of sewerage monitoring: 

Case Studies in Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Below some interesting recycling companies/ideas

 Envirocomp – Nappy Recycling Plant launched in Rochester, with a facility that uses a low-energy composting system to convert nappy, sanitary and incontinence waste into compost which can be used for non-food agriculture, land reclamation and leisure areas.

The interconnected economies of scale in care management means that nappies, sanitary and incontinence wear are used without insight within a paid for service.

This is one of the major sticking points for the transition to a more circular economy.

UK care businesses throw away almost more than a million tonnes of nappies and incontinence pads each year – accounting for 4%-7% of black bin waste – all of which goes to landfill.

Real Nappies Nappies https://lizziesrealnappies.co.uk

Recyclable Incontinence Pads: https://www.earthwisegirlsuk.co.uk/incontinence-pads-c-27.html

Recycled reusable sanitary pads https://www.bloomandnora.com/blogs/blog/reduce-reuse-and-recycle-with-reusable-sanitary-pads-made-from-plastic-waste

Nottingham university impact magazine Can more women use menstrual cups?

Are you a flusher or a binner?

Flushing pads and tampons down the toilet causes sewer blockages.

Worse, many pads and tampons end up in the sea and washed up on beaches. It has been estimated that 1.5‐2 billion menstrual items are flushed down Britain’s toilets  [PDF] each year. The great majority of these products end up incinerated or in landfill.

Figures from the Marine Conservation Society reveal that on average, 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste are found per 100 metres of beach cleaned. For every 100m of beach, that amounts to 4 pads, panty-liners and backing strips, along with at least one tampon and applicator. 


Plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Microplastics are defined as pieces smaller than 5 milimetres. Microplastics found on our beaches and in the ocean come from 2 sources: 

Intentionally added to consumer products like cosmetics (primary microplastics);

Originating from the breakdown of larger plastic items in the ocean or from washing of synthetic fabrics (secondary microplastics). 

A menstruating woman is socialised into buying and throwing away up to 200 kg of menstrual products  in their lifetime. It’s not necessary!

And paint stripper manufactured into tampons?

Non-organic rayon-based tampons contained some pretty nasty chemicals – paint stripper to name just one.

And chemical absorbers, fillers and lubricants, plus chemical and pesticide residues from the bleaching of cotton and the manufacturing process.

There is very little public information on what’s in these products and less transparency about additives. could it be because the menstrual products industry basically polices itself?

Question chemicals….everywhere? Well not in my name!

Walk down any supermarket aisle for feminine care and you’ll find hundreds of products aimed at freshening and deodourising

Why should menstrual products contain so much that’s bad? 

Synthetic fragrances can be made from a cocktail of up to 3,900 chemicals, according to the Chem Fatale report.  They can contain chemicals which are carcinogens, allergens, irritants and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). 

EDCs in particular are linked, not only to breast cancer and infertility, but to many other reproductive diseases and disorders such as endometriosis.

Women’s Environmental Network will come and talk to any organisation, school, college, workplace

The cheapest options are often those with the most potential to damage our health and the planet makes this a social and environmental justice issue: people with the least power have the greatest exposure to dangerous products. 

What are your options?

Menstrual cups are not only eco-friendly but can be a real money saver too. Washable pads or period underwear are other options. 

For some, though, tampons and disposable pads are preferable – and that’s where organic and plastic-free options come into play. These have no plastic, aren’t bleached, have no nasties and are biodegradable.


Discounts on the menstrual products via the Women’s Environmental Network, and enjoy #PeriodswithoutPlastic .

London’s approach to recycling: 

Unflushable Plastics London Assembly