Toilet paper is big business, and huge companies compete for your dollars. It’s no wonder that companies like Charmin have “spokes bears” to get you to buy their product. Toilet paper is also one of those consumer products that most of us use and no one talks about – and certainly, not where it goes after we “go!”
However, environmental scientists are talking about toilet paper a great deal because it has become an environmental catastrophe.
Ultra Plush is an Ultra Problem
Americans are pre-occupied with softness. To make ultra-plush, quilted and super soft paper requires the use of old growth forests and virgin pulp. There is no reason why we shouldn’t all be using toilet paper made from recycled paper fiber. Yet, according to the latest statistics only about five percent of Americans use toilet paper made from recycled paper. Ironically, when we go to a hotel or need to visit the restroom facilities at our workplaces or restaurants, 75 percent of the time, that paper is recycled. We seem to survive that experience just fine!
While we are on the topic, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States could save 470,000 trees and nearly 170 million gallons of water if everyone in the traded just one roll of regular toilet paper for a recycled roll each year.
Recycled toilet paper is not necessarily cheaper, but it is by far “less expensive” to the environment. There are also papers that combine both recycled fibers and virgin fibers which creates a very satisfactory feel and an environmental advantage.
Expansion of the quilted stuff
Another problem with the ultra-plush and very soft papers is how much it expands. It is a heavy-ply paper and may be several sheets thick as opposed to recycled paper that is a little thinner. People tend to use too much of the plush stuff as well and that leads to a lot of clogs in drains and pipes. “Down the road,” into the waste treatment facilities and waterways, plush toilet paper is creating major problems due to its inability to easily break down, as do plush baby diapers and thick bathroom tissue.
While don’t want to get too personal, if you are unwilling to give recycled toilet paper a try, try using a little less.
Toilet Paper is bleached
Most of the supermarket brands of toilet paper are bleached to get that look of purity. The problem is that the chemicals used are anything but pure. As if the use of all that bleach weren’t enough, there is a chemical by-product of bleaching that is released into the environment called dioxin.
Once dioxin is released into the environment, bacteria cannot break it down. It is even found in the toilet paper products themselves. Dioxin has been found to increase the incidence of cancers, diabetes, decrease immunity, affect learning and lowers male hormone levels.
Those at risk for higher dioxin levels include people who eat a great deal of fish, those who work in paper-making facilities and firefighters who must battle paper blazes.
It is a topic we may not want to think about; nevertheless toilet paper does present an environmental problem our planet must face. We can all do our part.
This blog should start out with a complaint! We don’t have much use for the term “Garbage Disposal.” The more proper term should be “Food Disposal.” Why does that bother us? Because as plumbers you would not believe some of the things that we have seen people try to grind down into the drain pipe.
The disposal is not meant to take care of sticks, flower stems, aluminum foil, pieces of ceramic cups or most anything else that is not food. Hard, non-organic or non-food items are not meant to be put into this machine.
I can’t grind that?
Even certain food items should not be ground. These items can include celery, corn cobs, Brussel sprout stalks, artichoke leaves, pits, large seeds, chicken bones, beef bones and most peels. Yes, orange, grapefruit, lemon or tangerine peels do make the disposal smell better, but only a few small pieces at a time. The system can quickly overload and clog. That leads us to another point.
Just because a homeowner is able to cram down chicken bones, glass or a corn cob, does not mean that there won’t be a clog farther down the line. Also, because Green Tech is an environmentally conscious company, we want you to be aware of anything flushed down your disposal. Sooner or later, it flows out into the water supply of your community.
Hot or cold?
To settle a long standing argument, always use cold water when grinding and never hot water. Hot water releases the fats in the food particles and cold water keeps the fats from dispersing. However, between uses you can flush the system with hot water if you just put in hot water and no food.
No fat zone!
This point leads us to another topic. If you love your disposal never try to put any fats, wax or grease down the drain. This includes bacon grease, salad dressings, cooking oils of any kind, solid fats, meat trimmings, candles and crayons (!), bars of soap (!) or fats from deep fryers.
The slippery substances will interfere with the grinding action but just importantly the fat globules will begin to accumulate in the lines and will build up and restrict water flow. From an environmental point of view, flushing all of these fats, waxes and oils into the waterways is a complete mess. It takes weeks for fats and oils to completely break down and these substances cut down on oxygen and can kill fish and aquatic plants.
Don’t force it!
If your disposal becomes so badly jammed that it won’t turn no matter what you do, do not try to force it. If you force it, you may make a bad problem even worse. We may have to take the disposal apart to unclog the jam and to drain the system. Call a plumber.
NEVER put your hand down a disposal that is jammed. It is just not worth it to get badly injured. If the disposal is badly damaged, they are not that expensive compared to major hand surgery. It should go without saying but a gentle reminder to remember is that children should not be anywhere near a disposal.
A properly maintained food disposal system should last for years…just treat it nicely!
From time to time, we have all had the displeasure of smelling “sewer gas.” We know it when we smell it but we may not be aware of what it is, what it means and what we need to do about it – especially if we smell it in our homes or businesses.
Sewer gas is that rotten egg smell that is produced by the sewage system. It is the result of the decomposition of waste materials. The gasses are a mixture of methane, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and other chemicals and they are more than “just unpleasant” to smell. Even at low levels, the gases can irritate your eyes, make you cough or produce dizziness. Higher levels are very serious and they can pose a serious health risk and in some cases they can cause fires or explosions.
If you have this smell in your home or your business, please call a plumber as soon as possible because this constitutes an emergency.
What causes sewage gas?
Chances are if you smell sewage gas, you will usually smell it in the basement. Sewage gas is heavier than atmospheric gas and it “sinks” to the lowest level in the house or in a room. The sewage gas smells are caused because somewhere within or outside of the house, the rotten egg smell is not being vented and so it starts to accumulate. The following are some of its causes.
The first thing a plumber will look for is the easiest to fix; a worn wax ring under the toilet. When the seal under your toilet becomes faulty, there can be a poor fitting and leaks. Tell-tale warning signs include small leaks at the base of the toilet or the toilet itself “rocking.”
Sewer vent pipes
Some basic things have not changed very much in the building of homes. When building a home, a vent pipe is put in allows the rotten egg gases to vent from the drainage system to the outside and obviously allows outside air into the system.
If for any reason, there is a block at any point in the pipe, there can be a buildup of the gas. If your bathroom sink, shower or bathroom toilet waste lines vent gases into this pipe and there is a clog or block, a vacuum can occur every time a toilet is flushed or water is drained. This vacuum will pull sewage gasses from the system out into your home.
Blocked air vent/Blocked drains
In many cases, the air vent may be clogged; it could be something as simple as a bird’s nest or a beehive. In any case if the problem is not remedied, a gas build-up can occur. There can also be an odor build-up where in spare bathrooms and showers the drains have not been in use. When a drain dries out, a clog can occur. This can also cause a gas smell.
More serious problems
If none of the problems above are found more serious problems may be to blame. The problem may be in the plumbing of the drain lines or vent lines such as serious cracks. Plumbers may put pressure along the line to determine the point of the break.
There may also be a structural problem stemming from poor building construction. Sometimes the builders place the furnace or air conditioning return air ducts too close to the vent pipes and the sewage gasses are brought in that way.
Finally, there may be a break in the foundation of the house. This may possibly allow gasses from sewage lines or septic fields to enter into the basement.
No matter the reason for the noxious odor, it must be immediately addressed.
As a public service, Green Tech would like to give you 10 tips for reducing your energy usage this winter. Any Chicagoland home can be made more efficient in terms of lowering heating bills, and many of the “fixes” are easy and even fun!
- Insulate! Insulation is a given and the more places you can insulate, the more savings you will realize. It’s not just insulation between the walls, but consider these:
- Insulate around the electrical boxes! Take off the plates and caulk or fill with foam. They even make foam gaskets that fit around the outlets to further insulate.
- Insulate around any pipes leading to the outside with insulation or foam.
- Have a fireplace? When the fireplace isn’t in use, place a “chimney balloon” in the chimney. It really stops drafts (even if the flue is closed).
- Seal! Did you know that 7 percent to 12 percent of the heat in your house is lost around your windows and doors? Use weather stripping and caulk whenever possible and also eliminate those nasty drafts under doors. Be sure to check any windows and doors in the basement or connecting with the garage.
- Attic Check! If you have an attic crawl space, don’t be shy about adding an extra layer of insulation. Have an attic access door? Insulate the door as you have insulated the attic. By the way, it will also keep your home cooler in the summer.
- Exhaust at the Best Times! You might not know this, but when you exhaust hot air outside, it pulls cold air inside! So clothes driers, exhaust fans and hoods may make your home cooler. If you can, use your clothes dryer at the warmest part of the winter’s day.
- Face the sun? Even on the coldest winter day, sunlight streaming in from a southern exposure can create warmth. Open the drapes and shade and let the sun shine in!
- Lower the heat! If your home is relatively free from drafts, lower the heat to 65 degrees and wear sweatshirts and woolen socks around the house. Obviously, if you’re gone for the day, lower the heat while you’re gone.
- On Vacation? Lower the heat to 55 degrees and keep some of the cabinetry in the kitchen open to let the air circulate under the sink and other areas.
- Buy a heater! A small ceramic heater placed in the bedroom will keep you warm and toasty while you sleep. The rest of the home can be turned down to 65 degrees or lower. You will be amazed at how much this technique will reduce your heating bill.
- Consider whole home humidification! The air in our homes tends to get very dry in the winter. Just the smallest amount of humidification can make the 65 degree air feel warmer.
- Install a programmable thermostat! The thermostat will learn your patterns, so if you forget, the house will remember!