Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Toilet humour

There’s a lot about New Zealand that’s very different from the USA, some of that is serious, but much of it isn’t. Sometimes it’s unusual things that show up how different the cultures of the two countries really are, and the graphic above is such a thing. It’s part of an ad for a local government, and it reminded me of how different things are here.

The ad from the Waikato District Council, which is just south of Auckland, is trying to get people to help keep the wastewater lines clear by not flushing the wrong things down the toilet, nor dumping the wrong things down the drain. The lower half, which is in the photo above, tries to be humorous and clear, which isn’t an easy thing to do.

The top half of the ad, which is in the format of an advertorial, is headlined “Ponder at the porcelain and think at the sink”. The text tells people to “only flush the three P‘s down the loo – pees, paper (of the toilet variety) and poo.” It also admonishes people to not pour cooking oil, grease, or food down the kitchen drain.

The full page ad.
This has been a topic in the news in recent months, with a consumer TV programme even testing wipes to see how quickly they break down (most of them didn’t). It turns out that those wipes, together with nappies (diapers), sanitary pads, bound with cooking oil and grease, are responsible for most of the blockages in sewer lines and gum up the machines in sewage treatment plants that are meant to break up stuff before it’s treated.

The congealed food fats often form big clumps nicknamed “fatbergs” that are a major problem all on their own. Throw in the “foreign objects” (which includes things like clothes), and it’s kind of amazing that sewers don’t block more often.

That’s the problem that this ad is trying to help fix by getting people to change their behaviour. If they pay attention, people may just do that.

I used to buy cleaning wipes to use to quickly clean the bathroom, and I always flushed them down the toilet without a thought—right up until I found out they don’t actually break down like normal paper does—even paper towels. I stopped using the wipes once I found this out.

I also once got rid of cooking grease by putting it down the drain with hot water because I thought, wrongly, that would be okay. Several years ago I saw a British home renovation show and found out for the first time that fats congeal and block the pipes, despite using hot water at the tap. I never did that again.

So, I bet other people will be just like me and stop doing the wrong thing once they learn why it’s wrong. Maybe this ad is the best approach—lighthearted graphics at the bottom, a somewhat more serious approach at top. If not, we’ll see other approaches.

But when I lived in the USA, I would never have seen a newspaper ad from a local government talking about “pees” and “poos”. I doubt there’s anywhere in the USA where an ad like this would appear even now.

And that’s why this is one of those times that something unusual shows how different the cultures of the New Zealand and the USA really are. I like that difference.


rogerogreen said...

Oddly adorable!

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I thought so, too, actually.