Health

Many Canadians use toilet as garbage disposal

A study on Canadian attitudes to water finds that nearly three quarters of Canadians use their toilets to flush away garbage and are not making the connection between personal water use and the true value of water.
Quebecers are most likely to say they shower with a partner or friend to conserve water. (Courtesy of Canadian Water Attitudes Study)

Almost three-quarters of Canadians admit to flushing items down the toilet that they could get rid of elsewhere.  In British Columbia it's most often dead pests that are flushed while other Canadians get rid of food, hair and cigarette butts. Albertans are most likely to admit to using the toilet as a general garbage disposal unit.

The data comes from the fourth annual Canadian Water Attitudes Study, an online survey commissioned by RBC and Unilever and endorsed by the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the United Nations Water for Life Decade. 

Bob Sandford, spokesman for the study, says that Canadians "claim to care about conserving it [water], yet knowingly engage in water wasting activities, including using fresh, clean water to dispose of garbage."

Study highlights

  • 72 per cent of Canadians admit to flushing items down the toilet.
  • Young Canadians are much more likely than those over 55 to flush items down the toilet.
  • 61 per cent  of Canadians don't know how much they pay for household water.
  • 86 per cent of Canadians have confidence in the safety and quality of our drinking water.
  • 48 per cent drink tap water; 21 per cent drink bottled water and 14 per cent drink water from a large-jug cooler.
  • 87 per cent worry about the quality of water in lakes where they swim.

Yet Canadians do seem to know about the quality of their water. Eighty per cent know the water in their toilet is just as clean as the water coming out of their faucet and three quarters are aware that nearly half of water used in the home is flushed down the toilet.

A toilet uses six to 20 litres of clean fresh water for every flush; the higher amount is almost equal to an office water cooler container. Sandford points out that Canadians "need to understand that water is a finite resource and there are significant social and economic implications related to wasting it."