Think Before You Flush


A Marine Litter campaign

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Think Before You Flush

The campaign


Sewage Related Debris comes directly from our sewer network, regularly escaping into the environment when sewers overflow. They mix with raw human waste which contains harmful pathogens and microorganisms causing illnesses that range from the annoying to life threatening. Did you know that if you regularly surf in sewage-polluted seawater that you’re advised to discuss hepatitis A vaccinations with your GP?

 A cotton bud stick can take 150 years to break down in the marine environment. 

Changing the sanitary product industry’s practices and our bathroom behavior will solve this unsanitary problem and ensure environmental protection on two fronts.

The average cost to customers of a blockage clearance by a private drain clearance company is £66 but can be much higher.

Changing behavior can come via a number of means; fundamentally it requires an individual and/or industry to change their actions. Individual change can be influenced external factors by challenging industry to increase awareness of the impacts flushing certain products can have on the environment, and underpinning requirements for this through legislation leads to the best results.

 Did you know, on average there are 28 wet wipes found on every mile of UK beach?

The SAS team is on hand to help you carry out your Think Before You Flush actions and will follow up with you to see how your campaign is going. The problem of Sewage Related Debris will not go away without positive behavioral change. If you only carry out one action as a result of this campaign, make sure you –


Get involved

How can you help with this campaign…

  • The first steps you need to take is to carry out a Mucky Monitoring Event to determine if your beach needs saving from Sewage Related Debris.
  • Monitoring events such as this allow us to gain an understanding of the scale of the problem and to raise awareness amongst regulators and the industry. By completing and returning a Mucky Monitoring form you are not only identifying the issue at your local beach but also help to gain a better understanding of marine litter in the UK.
  • A monitoring event should take you no longer than 30 minutes and lead to an important database allowing SAS to monitor the state of Sewage Related Debris on our beaches. We ask that monitoring takes place on each beach four times a year. Once in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
  • Run a Mucky Monitoring Event Download document
  • Once you have run your Mucky Monitoring Event you will be able to determine the state of your beach. Depending on what level this is there are different recommended actions to take. These are detailed below.
  • Action Plan: Very Clean Beach Download document
  • Action Plan: Minimal Sewage Related Debris present Download document
  • Action Plan: Moderate Sewage Related Debris present Download document
  • Action Plan: Dirty Beach Download document
  • Action Plan: Very Dirty Beach Download document

Campaign timeline

Key campaign dates


Think Before You Flush Launched!

SAS campaigners undertake some secret shopping missions on the highstreet and identify 6 major retailers and manufacturers selling cotton bud sticks without advice on responsible disposal.

SAS campaigners contact these brands and start working on an immediate solution.


Think Before You Flush

CAMPAIGN SUCCESS! SAS campaigners were successful in persuading retailers and manufacturers to promote the Think Before You Flush message or similar on their cotton bud packaging.


Think Before You Flush message hits the beach

The Think Before You Flush message was the cornerstone of the SAS flagship beach clean at Porthtowan.  A Cornish beach that is consistently impacted by vast numbers of cotton bud sticks.


The Good, The Bad And the Ugly Think Before You Flush Companies.

On World Toilet Day SAS promoted the sanitary product manufacturers taking responsible the measures to advise their customers how to properly dispose of their products, along with those manufacturers that replaced plastics with low-impact materials such as reinforced cardboard cotton-bud stick stems.

SAS also exposed the bad – the companies that continue to produce sanitary items yet refuse to include proper disposal information or icons, or remove unnecessary plastic elements from their products, which consistently end up on our beaches. The UK’s tide lines are littered with sanitary products that have travelled through the sewer network.


SAS celebrates Porthleven as the world’s first Think Before You Flush town!

SAS is proud to announce Porthleven as the World’s first Think Before You Flush Town. Working closely with the Environment Agency, SAS successfully engaged the Porthleven community with the Think Before You Flush campaign, empowering them protect local beaches from unwanted sewage discharges and sanitary waste. Learn more…