Save a Tree and Flush Your TP

Like most places I’ve been (and I’ve traveled an awful lot), Korea has both the clean and the down right dirty and disgusting bathrooms. One difference I’ve found, even the clean bathrooms often have a nasty funk. It’s especially prevalent where you go #2, the dreaded toilet and squater stalls.

Why? Flushing TP is strongly discouraged in Korea. Instead, each stall has a trash bin to collect your used ass wipe. This excrement saturated tissue piles up, and it stinks.

I’ve asked around for a reasonable explanation, and the only answer I’ve ever been given is that the toilet paper jacks up the sewage system. It’s usually said in a way to make the American sewage system sound so bourgeois.

“Our Korean system can’t handle the toilet paper like the system you are used to.”

“Your system in America is designed to accept the toilet paper. In Korea, it simply can’t do it.”

You’re telling me, that the sewage system gladly accepts monster loads of crap, but it can’t handle tissue? I know for a fact it can handle other things, food for example, because I frequently flush soft food instead of paying for the yellow food disposal bag. You know you do it too.

Do the math. Something doesn’t compute. Seems to me we’re dealing with one of those cultural abnormalities carried over from long ago, and it probably goes a little something like this: Because it wasn’t OK to flush when Koreans wiped with cloth or newspaper, it’s probably still not OK to flush even though we now use light tissue that is designed to easily break down in water.

Seriously, plumbing has not advanced in modern Seoul, the technological hub of the world? The sewage system isn’t as lightning fast as the internet? This place has the ability to clone cell phone and tablet technology (and claim it as its own), but it’s not capable of duplicating the distinguished American sewage system?

Then I found this article in the Korea Times, which pretty much explains it all:

Kim Hyung-do, the head of the sewage disposal department at Seoul’s Jongro-gu Office, said there was no reason to worry about toilet paper in the bowl because it is designed to disintegrate quickly (unlike the newsprint which our grandparents used). I immediately thought the galaxy needs to know this liberating fact.

A plumber concurred, saying that the only thing to worry about is blocking the U-pipes behind the bowl, which, like shit, happens.

For a historical and more technical perspective, I turned to Peter Bartholomew, the expatriate expert in ancient Korean buildings who has been here since the mid-1960s. He said the issue is connected with the size of septic tanks. They’re too small, most likely because in the old days human excrement was collected regularly for fertilizer. You just didn’t need a big one.

“There is only one compartment in these small septic tanks,” he said. “In more modern tanks there are two or even three compartments separated by baffles which allow staged decomposition along with the toilet paper, thus ensuring the final effluent from the tank is almost totally decomposed liquid, devoid of any solids.”

The collection trucks ― or “honey dippers,” as he called them ― prefer pure “black water.” But because local governments require the tanks to be pumped out every six or 12 months, they have to come around before the contents have completely turned to liquid. The solid materials such as toilet paper apparently cause problems with their pumps.

So, there you have it. Because the tank guys moan at the building owners, the entire country continues an unhygienic habit. It’s time to stop it and put the toilet paper where it belongs.

Oh Korea.

That got me thinking. Not only is this poo-paper stockpiling unsanitary and extremely stinky, but it’s also very wasteful.

Maybe you fight the power and flush, but I know you have looked in those trash bins and seen the massive piles of soiled toilet paper. The amount of tissue being used to wipe Korean bums is ridiculous. Do you use that much TP when you’re dropping it in the toilet? If so, maybe you do need to keep a plunger handy, surely it will become clogged. It’s not necessary to wrap the paper around your hand 9-10 times before giving it a run across your derriere.

Go ahead, try it for yourself. Determine how much TP is necessary to wipe and drop. Then, determine how much you deem necessary to protect your hand, parts of your undercarriage and every thing else out in the open should you decide to carefully maneuver the crappy paper out of the comfortable confines of the toilet, where it belongs, and instead drop it in the trash bin next to you. I guarantee when you’re placing it in the trash bin, you’re going to use way more TP.

I say listen to the head of the sewage disposal department at Seoul’s Jongro-gu Office, not the tank guys.

Save a tree and flush.


~ by ripcitytoseoul on November 21, 2011.

2 Responses to “Save a Tree and Flush Your TP”

  1. What a “shitty” article…lol

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