Comment on our article 24th April 2020, from marine biologist Professor Richard Thompson OBE

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote a post about the 3Ps in ‘Turn your toilet paper into a wet wipe + other news & views on loos & no. 2s‘ and potential ways to help the environment by not putting anything other than Poop, Pee and Paper (toilet paper) in the loo… We asked one of the world’s leading experts, Professor Richard Thompson, for his opinion and he kindly responded having said ‘the article made good sense.’ His comments can be seen below:

“The bottom line is we all need to work toward consuming less stuff. It is especially important to  minimise any single use items where the benefit is very transitory  –  but the persistence as waste is long-lived. That’s the issue with wipes. The move toward a fine to flush logo might make sense. However, its potentially confusing for consumers if some wipes are OK to flush and others not. Perhaps the simplest message is  the 3Ps –  only flush pee, poo and paper. The idea of a spray to modify conventional paper is an interesting one and  may have merit.  I hope the containers are fully compatible with  a circular economy.

To me the key thing in all of this is the need for  product designers to fully consider end of life scenarios for their products right from the design stage; and where necessary have necessary testing done  to evaluate those outcomes before a product goes to market. Many of the current challenges relating to plastics could be avoided with  a little more thought at the design stage.Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS

Professor Thompson is Director of the Marine Institute School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering) and leads the International Marine Litter Research Unit. Professor Thompson coined the termmicroplasticsin 2004. With thanks for his remarks and advice.

Listen to this fascinating and enlightening podcast with Professor Thompson on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Life Scientific [listen now or download.] ‘How did you first get interested in the problem of plastic pollution in the sea?’ Richard Thompson tells Jim Al-Khalili how he alerted the world to the micro-plastics in the ocean and the harm they might cause to marine life.

When the rest of the world was waking up to the harm caused to marine life by larger plastic items, such as plastic bags, Professor Richard Thompson searched for tiny fragments of plastic, some no bigger than a human hair; and found them in oceans and on beaches all over the world. He has spent decades studying the harm these micro-plastics might cause to marine life and is concerned. His work on plastics in cosmetics led to a UK ban on micro-beads in shower gels and exfoliating scrubs.

‘Poosflash’ Think about what you flush down the loo. If it’s not the 3Ps; toilet paper, no. 1s or no. 2s, then in the UK alone, it will be costing us in excess of £100m each year… and a whole heap of trouble.

We’ve often discussed, and are sure you’ve heard about, fatbergs. Yep, those disgusting planet like combos of every disgusting thing that shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet pan! If you had to deal with them head on, and sort out the damage they cause – then (if you’re doing that now, or have done in the past, usually quite innocently) maybe you’ll think again before you throw all that shit, that isn’t shit, into the loo – hopefully armed with this insight, you’ll not. Out of sight, will in time return to mind and not be out if it, as this will be a big problem for us all if people don’t think before they throw. Think the 3Ps Poo, Pee & Paper* [Toilet Paper* that is, as other tissue etc. is not made to break down like TP is, hence the name!]

Example of a 3Ps sign to use in the Bathroom

As the BBC reported back in January, even before the CV19 arose, ‘Every year the UK spends about £100m clearing an estimated 300,000 fatbergs, the blockages created from the congealed fats and waste we pour down the sink and flush down the toilet.’ If you are concerned that that money could be better spent and most of us can think of a dozen things immediately, then please let’s take this matter seriously. In a number of countries, the 3Ps sign is commonly seen above or near both public and domestic toilets – and it serves as a great reminder. Love your Loo!

Need more info or want to read up on all this? Then click on any of the links below and some excellent articles on the subject:

copyright Thames Water | Don’t Feed the Fatberg
  1. The war on fatbergs | The BBC
  2. UK’s Sewage System in Danger of Gridlock | The Guardian
  3. Don’t Feed the Fatberg | Thames Water
  4. On a more positive note! ‘Turning Fatbergs into BioFuelSmithsonian
  5. and of course… Wikepedia

It’s also worth repeating once again, that the current toilet paper situation is caused by people buying too much toilet paper, it’s a fact… as industry experts keep telling everyone (who’ll listen.) This in turn is causing people to use other papers & wet wipes etc. which is compounding the problem of the fatbergs and potential sewer problems for us all!

We’ll be back on Friday with more news on loos and no. 2s at ‘TheDailyPoo!