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How to properly dispose of things instead of dumping them down the drain

chemicals floating in water

There are some items that people commonly think are okay to flush down the toilet or pour down the sink, but almost all of those objects should be disposed of in a different way.

As last week's blog mentioned, we often don't think about what happens once things go down the drain, but contaminated wastewater can pollute our lakes.

What should go down the sink and toilet?

Generally, you should only flush toilet paper and your body's waste. Water and anything typically mixed with water, such as toothpaste, soap, and shampoo, are the only products that should go down our sinks and shower drains.

So, how should I dispose of things around the house?

Food Scraps

It doesn't matter how runny or gross your soup recipe turned out. Food doesn't belong in the sink or toilet. Having a garburator or garbage disposal installed in your sink doesn't mean food scraps won't make it through and end up in the sewage. Food can contribute excess nutrients to our lakes and fresh water.

Surprisingly, milk can be quite harmful to freshwater ecosystems. Milk requires a high amount of oxygen for bacteria to decompose it. The bacteria use up all the oxygen, which creates dead zones and deprives fish of the oxygen they need to breathe. Similar to the problems of excess nutrients in our lakes. If your milk or yogurt smells a little off when you twist off the cap, it might tempt you to dump it down the sink, but there are things you can use it for instead.

Food belongs in either the garbage or ideally the compost. Composting is a great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep food waste out of the landfill. If you live in Winnipeg and don't have a backyard compost, Green Action Centre runs a composting program. If you live outside of Winnipeg, contact your RM office to see if there is a program in your area.

Bathroom products

It doesn't matter if the packaging says flushable, biodegradable, or compostable. Unless something disintegrates as fast as toilet paper, it can potentially clog drains, or need to be removed by someone at the sewage treatment plant.


assorted medications and prescription drugs

Please don't flush your meds down the toilet or throw them in the garbage. Most pharmacies accept old pills. We recommend calling your pharmacist to find out or searching your location here.

Household Hazardous Waste

Paints, antifreeze, car oils, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, solvents, and varnishes

The chemicals in these wastes are harmful to the environment. Imagine being a fish in the water, with the fumes and colours of paints floating around you all the time and destroying water visibility, killing the things you eat, and degrading water quality.

Learn how to dispose of these hazardous products on the Product Care website.

Have we missed anything?

Search the product on WasteWise to find the Eco-Depot nearest you that will accept and dispose of your items.

Or check out the full list of products and learn how to dispose of them using the Province of Manitoba WasteWise A–Z Recycling Guide.


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