3 July 2023

Icon Water's smiling poo returns to confront a new menace

| Dione David
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smiling poo mascot

A smiling poo is the unofficial face of Icon Water’s highly successful Free the Poo public education campaign, which is set to present its second iteration. Photo: Liv Cameron.

A smiling poo that was the unlikely hero of Icon Water’s anti-pipe blockage campaign two years ago is returning to take on its next foe – sanitary products.

Version one of the Free the Poo tablet game saw users, armed with a trusty plunger, clear the way for the poopy protagonist before tackling the big boss: the dreaded fatberg. It was part of a greater public education campaign to help reduce blockages in Canberra’s wastewater pipes under the slogan “Wet Wipes Block Pipes”.

Phase two of the successful campaign takes on the lesser-known issue of sanitary products contributing to the problem of blocked pipes.

It follows research by Icon Water, which showed 11 per cent of participants reported flushing a sanitary product. Of those, 43 per cent said they were unaware that such products would cause issues in Canberra’s wastewater network. An additional 41 per cent said they had flushed menstrual products because no other disposal option was provided.

The most commonly disposed items were tampons (72 per cent) followed by pads (17 per cent).

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The campaign coincides with the recent passing of legislation to provide free menstrual products across the ACT.

Icon Water General Manager of Customer Engagement Davina McCormick said it was a timely reminder for the community to think about the appropriate disposal of period products.

“We need to respect that many people are private about their use of sanitary products, and that’s where providing safe disposal options can make a real difference,” Ms McCormick said.

“With an emerging public discussion around sanitary products, we’d really like to increase awareness of the need to bin, not flush these products.

“A reduction in blockages caused by these products, as well as wet wipes, will benefit all Canberrans.”

Icon Water’s blockage busters repair teams reported sanitation products as a definite problem, which Ms McCormick said directly impacts customers.

“Some wastewater pipe blockages impact households, while others are in Icon Water pipes, the cost of which is borne by all customers,” she said.

“The Free the Poo education campaigns are important because many of these blockages are avoidable or the impact could be significantly reduced.”

The community can expect to soon encounter Free the Poo 2 audio and visual messaging across the Capital region.

This will include the new radio jingle Free The Poo Round 2 and Icon Water’s “poo bus” doing the rounds again, with an updated focus on sanitary products.

For facilities managers, downloadable messaging is available on the Icon Water website to print out for the backs of toilet doors.

And of course, the popular Free the Poo game is available to download for free on Apple and Android devices.

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Look out for pop-up events, including the return of the Free the Poo virtual reality experience at Questacon for National Water Week in October.

Through it, the community gets to experience first-hand what can happen when we flush the unflushable and what goes into removing the problem at the Icon Water treatment plant.

It takes viewers down into the sludge-holding tanks to reveal the process of breaking down “rag balls” made largely from things like wet wipes and sanitation products.

“People don’t think beyond the flush. It’s not something you want to think about in your day-to-day activity but it’s something that plays an important but often invisible role in maintaining our lifestyle in Canberra,” Ms McCormick said.

“Our blockage buster teams have to manually get down into in the early stages at our plant to tear apart and remove these rag balls that form as a result of wet wipes and sanitary products, so that they don’t damage the very expensive and valuable equipment that allows us to do our vital wastewater treatment work.

“We’re bringing this issue to the community’s attention because it’s one the community can play a part in helping to resolve. With knowledge and the right changes like bins in bathrooms, Canberrans can help address this problem for their own benefit and that of the broader community.”

For more information visit Icon Water.

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