UNITED STATES—We have heard a lot recently about the shortage of toilet paper in many grocery stores. People have been a little overzealous with their stockpiling as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns, and this has led some people to run out. The problem is that toilet paper is an essential item, and everyone needs to have some in their home.

What this has meant is that those who have been unable to find traditional toilet paper in stores have instead decided to use their initiative and come up with alternatives. Now, some of these are fine, such as kitchen roll and facial tissues, but some people have been using facial wipes and even shredded t-shirts, and the problem is that these are not things that should be flushed in a normal sewer system.

This has led to issues in the Californian city of Redding, where wastewater management officials revealed that someone actually chose to use (and flush) a shredded t-shirt in lieu of having any toilet paper to use. This caused a massive strain on the city’s sewage system and pipe work because it led to problems such as clogged drains.

Now, in a normal residential or commercial property, clogged drains can be a nuisance, and one you want to deal with as soon as you can. However, when you’re talking about the drainage and sewage works for an entire city, something that is simply problematic can wind up becoming an unmitigated disaster.

Ryan Bailey, assistant director of public works for the city, said that they had received a call from a resident who complained that their toilet wasn’t flushing. This is something that was cause for concern to the city workers as it could have pointed to a widespread and more serious issue. They were unaware of exactly where the source of the blockage had come from, as it could have been from any of the homes on the street.

Fortunately, a wastewater crew responded promptly to deal with the problem, and removed the shredded t-shirt, clearing the blockage and allowing the system to work properly once again. This was so important for allowing the city to function at its optimum level, and it reduced the potential for a major problem during a pandemic, where social distancing is paramount, and businesses are having to close on a daily basis.

Officials are urgently appealing to Americans to think twice before flushing materials down the toilet that shouldn’t be flushed. This is even more important in the current climate, where people are often lacking in toilet paper and thus having to come up with alternative options. Among the items that were requested not to be flushed included napkins, tissues, kitchen towel, and what are known as flushable wipes (antibacterial wipes).

However, as Stephen Renner, Director of the Department of Sanitary Engineering for Ohio, tells us, “They are not flushable, and they are not biodegradable. They play havoc with our systems, please do not flush them.” The advice for people experiencing toilet tissue shortage is by all means to use an alternative, but instead of flushing, bag up anything you use and dispose of it that way.