Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadians use toilet as garbage bin, study reveals

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TORONTO -- Everyone knows what should go down a toilet -- and what needs to -- but it seems the vast majority of Canadians admit to giving the flush to items that should be discarded by other means, a study suggests.

Left-over food. Hair. Bugs. Cigarette butts.

Besides the yuck factor, sending such items swirling down the drain wastes six to 20 litres of fresh, clean water with each flush, a study of Canadians attitudes on water use and conservation points out.

While the study found that 55 per cent of respondents believe fresh water is the country's most important natural resource and 78 per cent are trying hard to conserve it, almost three quarters admit to flushing items down the john that could go in a garbage can or into a composter.

The online Ipsos Reid survey of more than 2,000 adults found Albertans (83 per cent) are most likely to admit to a quick flick of the handle on the porcelain throne to dispose of leftovers, butts and such, while Quebecers are the least likely (65 per cent).

Younger Canadians aged 18 to 34 are also much more likely to commit such throwaways to a watery end than those aged 55-plus (84 per cent versus 63 per cent), suggests the study commissioned by RBC and Unilever and endorsed by the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the United Nations Water for Life Decade.

Yet, the survey found Canadians' knowledge of water is high: eight in 10 know toilet water is as clean as that from a faucet, and almost as many are aware that nearly half the water used in the home goes down the toilet.

"This data highlights, once again, that Canadians are not making the connection between their personal water use and the true value of water," Bob Sandford of the Canadian Partnership Initiative said Monday in a statement.

"They claim to care about conserving it, yet knowingly engage in water-wasting activities, including using fresh, clean water to dispose of garbage. Canadians need to understand that water is a finite resource and there are significant social and economic implications related to wasting it."

Canadians use an average of 329 litres of water per day, but almost 70 per cent underestimate usage and often engage in wasteful habits, such as leaving the water running while doing dishes (46 per cent) and hosing down the driveway (17 per cent).

More than 60 per cent of respondents say they don't know how much their household pays for water, but about 70 per cent believe the price is high enough to discourage waste of the valuable resource.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2011 D1

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