Calling all Canberrans! What are you flushing down the toilet?
Icon Water’s Free the Poo campaign aims to flush away wastewater problems and reduce pipe blockages. The latest stage of the campaign is an online game that navigates common Canberra landmarks including the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
Armed with a trusty plunger, players head down the wastewater network as a smiling piece of poo (yes, really). The aim is to clear the wet wipe congestion before tackling the ultimate challenge: the dreaded fatberg.
If you think this is all a bit disgusting, imagine the real-life challenge at the wastewater plant where wet wipe blockages have to be removed by hand.
The game was launched on World Water Day (March 22). Icon Water general manager Davina McCormick said it is designed to educate parents to teach their kids the dos and don’ts of flushing.
“It’s about understanding the impact of what happens when you do put wet wipes down the loo, potentially blocking your own plumbing and also blocking our pipes,” Davina said.
The Free the Poo campaign had been in the works for almost 12 months before being launched in July last year, while the game has been six to nine months in the making.
Canberra has a lengthy history of wastewater blockage issues, mainly due to the extensive network of trees in our streets. Invasive roots collect any foreign matter and block the free passage of wastewater (hence the Free the Poo campaign tag).
Icon Water teamed up with Questacon to deliver water education and sustainability activities and received a great response from kids playing the game at the Q Lab.
“The school groups and families going through the Q Lab at Questacon have really been engaging with our Free the Poo game and it is resonating with kids,” Davina said. She added that the game was designed to equally appeal to families and anyone who likes gaming or might wish to indulge in the nostalgia of childhood gaming.
Although Davina said it was too early to judge the observations at the treatment plant, Icon Water has been measuring the awareness of the campaign and whether people have changed their behaviours.
“We’ve continued to see awareness increase over time since we launched the campaign,” she said.
“From those people who’ve seen the campaign, about one in two say that they’ve changed their behaviours and are talking to others about educating them and sharing the message not to put wet wipes down the toilet and only flush the Ps (being pee, poo and toilet paper).”
The aim of the Free the Poo campaign and game is to build literacy on Canberra’s wastewater network and educate the community in a creative way.
“We’ve got a comic that you can read on our website, we have integrated these messages into our schools and community education programs, there’re ads on the radio, we have our Free the Poo jingle and we’ve got signage out in the community on buses and shopping centres as well,” Davina said.
And this is just the first focus of the campaign, with more on the horizon to educate the community about other ‘unflushables’ such as fats, oils and period care products, according to Davina.
“We have designed this program with longevity in mind, to keep building messages to the community and building on education about making sure we’re all protecting our network and sewerage pipes,” she said.
Davina said she hopes the Free the Poo game continues to gain traction.
“I think the message is pretty simple, so far we believe that players are walking away from the game with a wastewater sustainability message they understand and, hopefully, they’re going home and sharing it with their families,” she said.
“Sewer blockages are a significant issue costing money and time to fix, so we are looking to the Canberra community through this quirky and interactive campaign to help us protect our sewerage network from things that shouldn’t be there.”
The Free the Poo game is free for all to play via Icon Water and can also be downloaded on the App Store or Google Play.