7. Cleaning London's waste

London produces lots of waste. Not just rubbish, but water waste as well. Everything we put down the toilet and sink must be cleaned out of the water before it is put back into rives and streams. Sometimes, things like chemicals are difficult to get out of the water and eventually find their way into rivers and streams.

The dirty water we have used in our homes goes through the sewers to one of the sewage treatment works in the Thames area. The main ones are at Beckton and Crossness east of London and at Mortlake in west London. The dirty water is cleaned and the effluent (cleaned water) is returned to the river.

However, some pollutants are not easy to remove. The rubbish that we put down the toilet such as sanitary items, condoms and cotton buds sometimes slip through the filters and ends up back in the river. Some household chemicals are also difficult to remove. Take a look in your kitchen cupboard and see how many different chemicals are going down your plug hole! Chemicals used in the medicines that we take can pass through our body into the sewage system. These chemicals may not be removed at the sewage treatment works and can build up in rivers. Some recent evidence has suggested that hormones used in birth control pills are finding their way into river systems.

Impacts

* the rubbish we put down toilets can damage river creatures * chemicals can accumulate in rivers and cause damage and genetic changes to river wildlife

What we can do?

* only put toilet paper and what has passed through you down the toilet * reduce use of chemical cleaners in the home. For example, dilute disinfectants and use sparingly * buy cleaners that are environmentally friendly and do not contain phosphate
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